Jurgen Klopp insisted that while it may be “difficult” for Virgil van Dijk to “ignore” the significance of his return to Goodison Park, his injury there will not affect him.
It is just over a year since Van Dijk suffered a shocking ACL injury following a challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, which ruled him out until July.
Liverpool return to Goodison on Wednesday night and the Dutchman is expected to make his 17th start of the season, having made a full recovery from the problem after nine months out.
While it is natural for the tackle to play on his mind as he prepares to face Everton again, Klopp is confident Van Dijk will have no problems when he takes to the field.
“We’re all human beings, so it’s probably difficult to ignore something like that,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Klopp added: “But Virgil is very experienced and he has now had these kinds of situations constantly since he’s back.
“He’s always in challenges and all these kinds of things, where he just has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in the past.
“So yeah, slightly more different, because it’s the same place. But apart from that, it’s just a football game again.”
In ways, it is remarkable how well Van Dijk has been able to recover from such a long layoff, and though Liverpool’s No. 4 may not yet to have hit top form, he has helped to keep nine clean sheets.
The club’s medical staff have been required to take a more cautious approach with Joel Matip‘s fitness, often swapping him out of the side, but there has been care taken with Van Dijk too.
“Virgil came back brilliant,” Klopp continued.
“All the little things, people are really quick with that. If something is not exactly like it was before, ‘oh, he’s not the same anymore’, and stuff like this.
“It’s of course not right, these kinds of judgements make absolutely no sense because everyone needs time to get back.
“But he had a full pre-season, which is absolutely helpful.
“Then since then we’ve had to learn to deal with it, it was at least like the third game in a week, even if he looked fine, he needed maybe this little break.
“I’m not sure we have to give that still for the next few games, but at least we need to have it in our mind, to think from time to time about that.
“Apart from that, it’s all good. His comeback was absolutely brilliant. Since he’s back it’s really good.
“If some things are not exactly like they have been, it’s only a matter of time before they will be exactly where they have been, because it’s just his quality. There’s no doubt about that.”