After sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October, Van Dijk has been sidelined for the majority of the season.
Its was only one of the defensive injury problems that Liverpool has dealt with this season, and it has wreaked havoc on their season, leaving them four points behind Manchester United heading into Sunday’s match at Old Trafford.
Last season, Van Dijk’s leadership and imperious qualities helped the Reds win the Premier League trophy, as he played all 38 matches for the club.
Just one defender in the league had more aerial wins than him, he attempted – and completed – more passes than anyone else, and Trent Alexander-Arnold was the only defensive player in the league with more than 3,624 touches.
His excellence not only contributed to their defensive stability, but it also had an effect on their overall philosophy on the ball, which they lacked for the majority of 2020-21.
Despite videos of Van Dijk running circulating on social media on Thursday, Klopp is advising fans not to get too worked up.
“I don’t have enough English words to say the same thing that often,” Klopp told reporters. “Yes, he is running like Hendo [Jordan Henderson], Joe [Gomez] and Joel [Matip], that’s all good. Rehab always starts with straight-line running.
“There’s a lot of things to come. You go through a lot of steps until you are finally ready to join team training. They are all quite a way.
“Nobody told me, fasten your seatbelt, the boys will be ready and in team training next week, but they are in a good way.”
The match against United on Sunday could be crucial, with the Red Devils still hoping to drive Manchester City all the way in the title race and Klopp’s side in desperate need of a boost to their top-four ambitions.
Despite the fact that United was in action only a few days ago, defeating Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, Klopp doubts Liverpool would have much of a freshness advantage.
“Whatever situation you are in, when you’re a Liverpool player or manager, this is the game,” he continued.
“Is it the best place to go after watching them score five in one half? I don’t know. A lot of things can happen, we just make sure we are ready for it.
“They looked pretty good last night and we have to be ready but we have trained well this week. We will have the right legs to go and see what we can make of it.
“[Marcus] Rashford, [Mason] Greenwood, [Paul] Pogba played a good game last night. Whoever we play, they cannot and won’t make massive changes. It’s tough but we’ve had these types of fixtures in other seasons, so it’s just a fight. We have to fight.
“When you play Thursday then Sunday… Man United have got used to it but it doesn’t make it better. It’s a tough challenge for them.
“Today is recovery, tomorrow second recovery and then they play. No chance to change things but I don’t think they want to really at the moment.
“It will be a tough game, intense. We saw last night – they are good! Especially when you let them play.
“They were flying. I am pretty sure United still feel they have a chance [for the title]. Both teams have to win it which is a good recipe for the game.”