Virgil van Dijk could make his return from long-term injury in Liverpool's pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin on Thursday, says manager Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool struggled in the absence of Van Dijk after the centre-back suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Merseyside derby at Everton in October last year.
Klopp also revealed fellow defender Joe Gomez is closing in on a return to action, with the 24-year-old having suffered his own serious knee injury while on international duty with England last November.
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Speaking to the official club website, Klopp said: "I hope, I am not sure, that there is the opportunity that Virgil could play a few minutes.
"He looks really good in training and maybe we can bring [him in], but I need to have some final conversations. He looks ready and we will see.
"If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense.
"Joey is very close. There is no race between the two of them; they had different injuries and stuff like this, but [he is] very close.
"If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. We will see. In training they both look really good."
The return of some key defensive reinforcements will be a major boost for a Liverpool side who will be looking to regain the title from Manchester City.
However, Klopp is keen to not rush Van Dijk and Gomez back into the fold prematurely, hinting he is prepared to ease them back into match action.
Liverpool kick-off their Premier League campaign on August 14 against newly-promoted Norwich at Carrow Road, live on Sky Sports.
"I think from time to time there are some pictures of them from training sessions and everyone can see how good it looks, but there is no rush for us," Klopp added.
"It is not about they now need five pre-season games to be ready for the start or whatever.
"It is a long season and we prepare them after these very, very serious injuries for the rest of their careers and not for the first game of the season."
Liverpool will kick off the 2021/22 Premier League season with a trip to take on newly-promoted Norwich City at Carrow Road on August 14, live on Sky Sports.
Jurgen Klopp's side, who finished in third place last season, host Chelsea and champions Man City on August 28 and October 2 respectively, before they face Man Utd at Old Trafford on October 23.
The first Merseyside derby of the season takes place at Goodison on the evening of November 30, while Leeds United visit Anfield on Boxing Day, before the Reds bring in the New Year by taking on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 1.
Xherdan Shaqiri's future at Anfield could be decided this week amid interest from Spanish and Italian clubs, while Liverpool are unlikely to make a move for Italy's Euro 2020 star Federico Chiesa.
Shaqiri's impressive performances at Euro 2020 - where his three goals in five games helped Switzerland reach the quarter-finals - have attracted the attention of a number of clubs.
La Liga's Sevilla and Villarreal were previously interested in signing the 29-year-old on loan, but are now keen on a permanent deal.
If Shaqiri does leave Liverpool, he is unlikely to be replaced at Anfield by Chiesa.
he club do hold an interest in the 23-year-old - who helped his country to Euro 2020 glory this summer - but are not planning to take it any further as they consider him to be too expensive.
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