The Liverpool star made his long-awaited return to competitive action against Norwich on Saturday but is not exactly being eased back
Virgil van Dijk is facing a gruelling five-week schedule on his return from the knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season following his instant return to Holland’s squad.
The Liverpool defender was named in Louis van Gaal’s provisional 25-man selection for three crucial World Cup qualifiers on Friday – despite not playing a competitive game for 10 months.
And that means Van Dijk is faced with the prospect of playing 10 games in just 37 days – including Premier League meetings with Chelsea, Leeds and Manchester City and the opening two fixtures of Liverpool’s Champions League campaign.
Jurgen Klopp’s men also face Crystal Palace and Brentford before Van Dijk links up with the Dutch squad for three qualifiers against Norway, Montenegro and Turkey.
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Van Gaal is certain to want his captain in the team after coming out of retirement at the age of in a week when he celebrated his 70th birthday to become Holland boss for the third time in his career.
He succeeded Frank de Boer in the aftermath of a miserable Euros campaign that saw Holland knocked out by the Czech Republic.
But De Boer was already under pressure going into the tournament after a 4-2 defeat to Turkey in Istanbul in March left the Dutch in second place in Group G, ahead of Montenegro and Norway only on goal difference.
Van Dijk, 30, will also be keen to make up for the lost months of his career.
He suffered serious cruciate ligament damage when he clashed with Everton keeper Jordan Pickford in the early weeks of last season.
And Klopp’s team missed him badly as their title defence saw them finish third, 17 points behind champions Manchester City.
Van Dijk’s bid to prove his fitness for the Euros also proved unsuccessful – and his absence was a problem that Holland could not overcome.
Van Dijk has played 38 times for his country.
But he is yet to play at a major international tournament after being left out of Van Gaal’s squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Holland returned home with a bronze medal after beating the hosts in a third-placed play-off.
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But since moving to Merseyside from Southampton in January 2018 for a then-world record fee for a defender, the former Groningen and Celtic star has developed into one of the world’s best centre-backs.
Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Champions League in 2019 and was a huge presence as Klopp brought an end to the club’s 30-year wait for the title the following season.
Klopp has spoken glowingly about his £75million defender’s determination to be at the heart of Liverpool’s defence this season.
And the Dutchman has been rewarded with a new four-year contract that will keep him at Anfield until 2025.
Liverpool’s schedule has pitted them against title rivals Chelsea at Anfield on August 25.
They then face trips to Leeds and Brentford either side of a home game with Palace before a crunch collision with champions City on October 3 before another international break.
The opening two group games of the Champions League also take place in September after clubs football halts for World Cup qualifiers.