Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool will not risk playing Virgil van Dijk or Joe Gomez in pre-season until they are fully ready to return.
Van Dijk has been out since last October with an ACL injury, and days later Gomez was also sidelined for the year when he did damage to his left knee, requiring surgery.
Both have been training with Liverpool in their pre-season camp in Austria, but have not featured in friendly action, and Klopp says they are unlikely to play any minutes in the Reds’ next pre-season game against Hertha Berlin on Thursday July 29.
Speaking after the 1-0 win over Mainz on Friday to LFC TV, Klopp said: “It would still be a surprise [if they played against Hertha], unfortunately.
“They look really good. But look, they do everything, they play football, we do the things we can do, they don’t do too much, we just have to be patient. We prepare for a full season, not a pre-season game.
“I will not risk it for a game here. We have a lot of games still coming, but I don’t see them being involved for the next one.”
Luca Kilian’s late own goal settling a drab affair in Austria on Friday against Klopp’s former side, but the German was happy with what he saw, even if it was not perfect.
“You always have to consider what you did the day before. We had a double session [Thursday], trained this morning, and this is exactly what you need. Good intensive stuff, and try to play the best football you can. It’s pre-season.
“I am happy about a lot of situations I saw. First half I saw some really good football, we passed the ball quite quickly against a good organised side, a good defending side. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely OK.
“The kids forced for a result in the second half, and they got it, so I’m happy about that.
“We had to defend of course; organisation-wise it’s not even close to where we have to be, but how is that? When you’re tired you try to bring the best organisation possible on the pitch, it’s never about 100 per cent. I think the boys did that today, and so I am happy
“Nobody injured, which is important, everybody came through, so fine.”
Klopp gave a proper debut to summer signing Ibrahima Konate in the victory, but changed his entire side at half-time, giving minutes to Billy Koumetio, Leighton Clarkson, Kaide Gordon, Owen Beck and Tyler Morton, having started Harvey Elliott from the off.
“Harvey Elliott in the first half was really good. The kids are doing well I must say. I really enjoy watching them, and helping them to understand the game better, the position, they have to be brave otherwise it’s a waste of time.
“In our system, how we play, we have to make the difference in one-vs-one situations, you get the ball, if you can make a little difference with a little acceleration, all of a sudden the game changes.
“We did that, Owen (Beck) did that in a couple of times, Kaide (Gordon) did it as well. We had good balls in behind for Divock (Origi). Billy (Koumetio) played his first game of pre-season, was OK as well, so all fine.”
Analysis: All eyes on Konate, but Keita and Gordon impress
Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand
“Liverpool were never going to run rings around a side two weeks further in their preparation for the new season, and the old adage “performances don’t matter in pre-season” is necessary here.
“This was a really dull affair for large parts, lacking in flow and rhythm, but there were a handful of things Jurgen Klopp will be delighted with.
“Naby Keita, who needs to reignite his Liverpool career, was the brightest player in the first half, showing brilliant skill and close control on several occasions to get out of cul-de-sacs and create. Harvey Elliott, too, impressed, and was singled out by Klopp for praise.
“On his proper debut, all eyes were also on Ibrahima Konate, and this was a 6/10 performance from the 22-year-old. A sloppy concession of possession, followed by a brilliant recovery to win the ball back, just about summed up his 45 minutes.
“The second half brought Liverpool’s average age down considerably, and though Owen Beck will get the plaudits for ‘setting up’ the own goal winner, 16-year-old Kaide Gordon impressed most.
“Gordon chased everything, nearly promoting a howler from the Mainz goalkeeper as he pursued a back pass, looked pacey and even produced a quite superb, bold dummy to create a chance for Divock Origi late on.
“It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from two lots of 45 minutes, but Klopp’s glass was half full rather than half empty.”
Liverpool face Hertha Berlin on Thursday July 29 at 7.20pm at the Tivoli Stadion Tirol in Innsbruck, Austria.