Liverpool defender Joel Matip is set for his first appearance since March this weekend as he joins pre-season preparations looking to earn a place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up.
With Dejan Lovren involved in the World Cup final with Croatia there is likely to be a spot up for grabs to start the Premier League campaign alongside Virgil van Dijk in the centre of defence.
Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan already have two 45-minute friendly appearances under their belts so Matip is playing catch-up as he is a week behind in training after recovering from a thigh injury which prematurely ended his season.
“If the manager decides (I can play) I would be happy. I think I am ready,” he told liverpoolfc.com ahead of Saturday’s friendly at Bury.
“Of course I am in full training but I think to get the real full fitness everybody needs a bit longer, me especially after a long injury, but we are all on a good way and me as well.
“You need this time on the pitch to be ready… I’m looking forward to these pre-season games, to get fit and get back to a good level.”
Matip returned to Melwood ahead of his team-mates to complete his recovery programme in an attempt to give him the best chance of being prepared for the start of the campaign.
“I spent a lot of time over the summer here in Liverpool to be ready and to get fit,” added the 26-year-old.
“Every football player wants to be fit, but especially after a season with a few injuries you want this more.
“It’s a long way to go (until the first match of the season at home to West Ham) but I try to work on my own fitness and to be ready.
“You need sometimes the ball to get this feeling back, to know how you move again, to get self-confidence in your own movements.
“This needs some time, but I’m still looking forward to the new steps like playing friendly games. I am quite positive.”
Matip trained with his team-mates at Melwood today but strikers Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum were not present.
Press Association Sport understands they were undertaking bespoke individual sessions, which is common during pre-season work.
Ings sat out Tuesday’s friendly at Tranmere with severe blisters and may not feature at Gigg Lane as Klopp could decide it is preferable for him to do a double session at Melwood because he has missed some training this week.
Van Dijk, however, is set for his first appearance of pre-season while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will return to training next Friday after their World Cup involvement.