Liverpool centre-back Sepp van den Berg is nearing a return to action with loan club Schalke, having been out since October with an ankle injury.
Van den Berg required surgery to repair the damage to his left ankle after being stretchered off in Schalke’s 3-2 loss to Augsburg at the start of October.
The Dutchman vowed to “come back stronger” following a successful operation, but his comeback would have to wait until after an extended winter break in Germany.
Schalke are now in Turkey for preparations ahead of the Bundesliga restart, and Van den Berg travelled as part of the 28-man squad in Belek.
He was not involved in a 2-2 friendly draw with FC Zurich on Saturday and is unlikely to be included for the follow-up against Nurnberg on Tuesday.
But according to Schalke, he is “back on a good path” and “expected to return to team training in Belek step by step,” with a further friendly to come against Werder Bremen on Saturday.
Van den Berg has already rejoined his team-mates in running drills around the pitches but is yet to have been pictured in ball work.
When fit, he is expected to resume first-choice duties at the heart of the Schalke defence, though there has been a change of manager since he was sidelined, with Thomas Reis taking over from Frank Kramer.
In Van den Berg’s absence, Maya Yoshida has been paired with a host of other defenders, but since Reis’ appointment he has started every game alongside Henning Matriciani.
Schalke have lost seven of their eight games since the injury, conceding 20 goals and keeping one clean sheet, with their only win a 1-0 against Mainz in November.
There is no expectation that Liverpool would cut short Van den Berg’s loan spell despite Schalke’s ailing form, though Billy Koumetio has already returned to Merseyside.
Austria Wien confirmed the termination of Koumetio’s deal on Thursday, with the Frenchman telling his Instagram followers he is now “back home.”
He could be joined by academy goalkeeper Jakub Ojrzynski, who was omitted from Radomiak Radom’s squad for their own training camp in Turkey, having spent the first half of the season on the bench.