LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 31, 2022: Liverpool's Sepp van den Berg during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace at Anfield. Strasbourg won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool defender suffers new setback after long-awaited return from injury

Sepp van den Berg marked his first game in five months with an own goal for Schalke II, and his bad luck has continued with a new injury setback.

After a promising start on loan with Schalke in the Bundesliga, an ankle ligament injury suffered in October has led to a miserable campaign for Van den Berg.

The Dutchman required surgery, and after initially returning to light training during the winter break he was then forced out again after he complained of ongoing pain in his ankle.

But there were promising signs as Van den Berg took to the pitch for the first time in five months on Saturday, as Schalke II – the club’s reserve side – visited FC Duren.

It was a nightmare start for the defender and his team, however, with FC Duren taking a 2-0 lead within the first 19 minutes.

First was a header from a corner, before Van den Berg conceded a slapstick own goal as he played a blind pass beyond goalkeeper Radomir Novakovic for it to trickle over the line and in.

Schalke II mounted a comeback through goals from Nelson Amadin and Marouane Balouk, while Van den Berg played the full 90 minutes.

However, a twisted ankle in training earlier this week has now led to another spell on the sidelines, as Schalke manager Thomas Reis explained on Thursday.

“None of the injured players will return,” he told reporters before the Revierderby against Dortmund on Saturday.

Sepp van den Berg has suffered a slight setback, but we’re just being cautious with him.”

2K0PA8H Gelsenkirchen, Germany. 10th Sep, 2022. Soccer: Bundesliga, FC Schalke 04 - VfL Bochum, Matchday 6, Veltins Arena: Schalke's Sepp van den Berg gives instructions. Credit: David Inderlied/dpa - IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with the requirements of the DFL Deutsche FuBball Liga and the DFB Deutscher FuBball-Bund, it is prohibited to use or have used photographs taken in the stadium and/or of the match in the form of sequence pictures and/or video-like photo series./dpa/Alamy Live News

The hope is, then, that Reis’ comments on the severity of the issue ring true, but it can only be seen as a frustrating development in a season full of them for Van den Berg.

So far since joining Schalke in August, the 21-year-old has played just four times for the first team, and though he was named in the provisional Netherlands under-21s squad for this month, he is now likely to be omitted.

There was a belief that, with a productive loan in the Bundesliga, Van den Berg could return as part of the Liverpool squad for next season.

Whether that is still the case remains to be seen, with the club weighing up moves for a number of centre-backs in the summer transfer window, including compatriot Jurrien Timber.