Premier League

BIG BLOW: Liverpool fretting over injury as star defender injured in a friendly against Athletic Bilbao

BIG BLOW: Liverpool fretting over injury as star defender injured in a friendly against Athletic Bilbao

BIG BLOW: Liverpool fretting over injury as star defender injured in a friendly against Athletic Bilbao

The season hasn’t even begun yet, and Liverpool are fretting over injuries.

If Jurgen Klopp hoped he’d used up all his bad luck last year, it looks like he might have been mistaken.

Because a week before the new Premier League campaign, the Reds boss could have another sizeable headache to contend with.

The sight of Andy Robertson, one of the club’s most consistent and durable performers, hobbling off during the pre-season friendly draw with Athletic Club at Anfield on Sunday is enough to send supporters into a panic.

Robertson went over on his right ankle blocking a cross from Alex Berenguer, shortly before half-time. The pain was immediate, the Scot covering his face as the Kop, for the first time all afternoon, fell silent.

There were huge cheers as, gingerly, he rose to his feet a minute or so later, but there was no chance of him carrying on. The stretcher was rejected, at least, but Robertson looked anything but comfortable as he was helped from the field. There was a quick word with Klopp on the sideline, before he headed down the tunnel for treatment.

Concerning, to say the least. Robertson didn’t miss a Premier League game last season, but with only six days until Liverpool head to Norwich, that run looks to be in serious doubt.

Step forward Kostas Tsimikas, then. The Greece international managed less than 10 minutes of league football last season following his move from Olympiacos, but he could find himself under the spotlight at Carrow Road. The good news, at least, is that he has looked sharp during pre-season. He will feature here against Osasuna on Monday night.

It felt like Robertson’s injury overshadowed what had, until that point, looked like being a more than useful exercise for Liverpool. Klopp will have been pleased by a lot of what he saw in the first half here, while the sight (and sound) of nearly 40,000 fans inside Anfield was enough to get the pulse racing again. How we’ve all missed that over the past 18 months.

Liverpool were able to give Virgil van Dijk his first outing on home soil in more than 10 months. The Dutchman managed 71 minutes alongside Joel Matip in the heart of defence, and while there were understandable signs of rustiness, the sight of him pinging diagonal passes out to Mo Salah and throwing his head at Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corners provided plenty of cause for optimism. He might not be ready for Norwich next weekend, but he won’t be far away. And Liverpool, don’t forget, have Matip, new signing Ibrahima Konate, the returning Joe Gomez and the new cult hero Nat Phillips to choose from, in any case.

They also have, in Harvey Elliott, a young man who may well give them an extra, unexpected dimension this season. The 18-year-old has been outstanding in pre-season, and he was again here. Playing as a right-sided number eight, Elliott has done his first-team prospects no harm at all. He’ll save the club millions in the future.

There is a touch and an awareness about him which belies his tender years, and he almost decorated a stellar display with the most wonderful of goals. Instead, his fierce, curling effort struck the angle of post and bar, with the Kop already on its feet.

Elliott looked sharp as a tack, as did Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, who grabbed the Reds’ goal early on with a clinical angled finish. The Portugal international should certainly start at Norwich, with Roberto Firmino only just back from his holiday. Regardless, the Brazilian knows he has a fight on his hands this season.

There was still no pre-season goal for Salah, though it was not for the want of trying. The Egyptian, like Mane, looks refreshed and rebooted after his summer break, quick and hungry. And when the season starts, Liverpool know they can count on him to find that scoring touch.

Those who didn’t feature here will do so on Monday night. There will be run-outs for Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson, their first of pre-season, while the likes of Gomez, Konate, Fabinho and Firmino will all play, along with first-team hopefuls Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino.

It is Tsimikas, though, who will be of most interest perhaps. After a year in the shadows on Merseyside, it could be time for him to see him under the spotlight.

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