Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Virgil van Dijk is unlikely to return before the end of the current season.
Van Dijk suffered a torn ACL back in October, and although a return to action this year always seemed unlikely, Liverpool have refused to state that the Dutchman's injury was season-ending like that of Joel Matip.
There is still some hope as Klopp confirmed in his press conference that he plans to include Van Dijk in his 25-man Champions League squad, but he is not optimistic about the defender's chances of playing.
“Whatever happens, I think we have space for Virgil on the Champions League list," Klopp said. "I think he was on the Premier League list. Nobody told me I have to change something with that. If we have space in the Champions League list then Virgil will be on the list.
“In the moment, I don’t know where these things are coming from – nobody really, no doctor, nobody really told me there’s a chance for Virgil to play in this season again. I don’t want to say that’s absolutely impossible but it’s not likely. It’s not likely. We don’t have to discuss these things really.
“If we have space we would put them all on, even when all the medical people tell us there’s no chance. We put them on because we believe in miracles from time to time.
"But if there’s no place then we have to consider these kind of things and say, ‘The chance is not too big so we have to make the decision.’ But if they are on the list then it’s only because we hope for nearly a miracle. That’s it.”
Liverpool finally dipped into the transfer market to sign some replacement centre-backs, bringing in Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak from Preston and Schalke respectively, but Klopp warned fans not to expect to see the pair starting together anytime soon.
"The good thing is it's football still," Klopp said when asked if the pair's lack of Premier League experience was behind his decision. "They played in Germany, they played in the Championship, so that's not a problem.
"Coming into defence, we've had 12 or 13 different centre-half pairings, and that makes it more difficult for the likes of Neco [Williams] and Kostas [Tsimikas] as well. Kostas is new, Neco is still young, you search for stability in the team, and when you change that often [it is harder].
"We obviously don't live in an ideal world, and that means we have to be smart, we have to be quick and we try everything to do that. We have different things to help them and it goes faster, but we obviously play different to Preston, obviously different to Schalke, that’s clear.
"They will need time, but we don’t have a lot of time, so we will use the time we have in our hands and try our best. If they would have to start tomorrow night together, I think that would not be too cool. But we will give them a few more days.”