So when the Liverpool defender let out an audible howl before collapsing onto the turf at the start of the second half, he could probably hear the collective gasp of those watching Merseyside fearing the worst.
Reruns, however, revealed that Van Dijk was cut above the right eye by a stray elbow from clumsy Red Bull Salzburg substitute Rasmus Kristensen, who later allegedly decorated Kostas Tsimikas in the same fashion.
Painful, yes, and requiring a staple or two, but not too much of a long-term problem.
However, minor fear has developed an ongoing transfer setter for Jurgen Klopp.
Should Liverpool buy another center-back?
Dejan Lovren’s departure left the Reds with three senior options. One of them, Joel Matip, has been out since June and has only started one top-level game in 10 months, although he could be back for the Premier League opener at Leeds United on September 12.
So when Van Dijk stepped out at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday afternoon, Joe Gomez was more of a partner with Nat Phillips, who spent last season on loan at Stuttgart and only made a lone appearance for the Reds.
After that, the choice is limited. Fabinho might be able to do a center-back job, but not for a long time. And it’s far too early for any of the Academy’s hopefuls, as much as Billy Koumetio stepped up last week.
Then there’s the matter of less competition for places, with Gomez less than stellar for most of the first half and responsible for Salzburg’s second goal.
Van Dijk will be patched up for the Community Shield against Arsenal on Saturday.
But his fear reminds Liverpool of a situation that may well need to be corrected before the transfer window closes in October.
Klopp receives a poser in the middle
While the preseason is usually an opportunity for fringe players to claim their rights, this shortened version has proven otherwise.
Rather, Jurgen Klopp used the short warm-up schedule to roughly indicate Liverpool’s starting lineup for Wembley this weekend.
In truth, absences have limited room for experimentation anyway, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Wilson, Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson all missing.
And, if anything, the performance at Salzburg saw some likely starters in danger of making their way onto the bench.
What did you think of Liverpool’s performance against Salzburg? Let us know in the comments below
Fabinho relies on the pace, and takes time to regain his form after any spell on the sidelines.
Seasons’ short turnaround time, however, means luxury isn’t available, and his choppy display here – embodied when assaulted for the Salzburg opener – has put pressure on his spot, especially with Solid Gini Wijnaldum, energetic Naby Keita and both Curtis Jones and James Milner made a positive difference on the bench.
Neco Williams had a rough time at right-back as his learning curve became evident – Milner would be another option in the post – while Takumi Minamino and later two-goal Rhian Brewster were keen in a way that the disappointing Roberto Firmino was not.
Selecting Klopp at Wembley has become more difficult in a way he wouldn’t have wanted.
Salzburg leads the way for the Arsenal
As a preparation for Saturday, the first 20 minutes were absolutely ideal.
After giving Arsenal two goals in their 2-1 loss to the Emirates last month, Liverpool have once again handed out gifts in the face of a simple squeeze.
The Gunners are unlikely to change their approach too much, having had more success with him beating Manchester City and Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
Klopp knows then that his team need to be mentally active as much as anything else this weekend.
Of course, it is always dangerous to draw conclusions from preseason friendlies. If it had been a competitive game, Jerome Onguene would have seen red for knocking down Sadio Mane in the first half rather than being given a check mark and a yellow.
Why should I register?
Premier League champions Liverpool are set to defend their crown as the new season approaches.
The Reds are ready to resume training after a short hiatus and start preparations for the new season.
Follow all the latest news from Melwood and Liverpool’s pre-season preparations with updates from Paul Gorst, Ian Doyle and the rest of the ECHO squad.
You will also receive an additional weekly newsletter with all the latest behind the scenes news from Paul’s Melwood.
How do I register?
It’s free, easy and doesn’t take any time at all.
- First click on this link to our newsletter registration center.
- Once you’re there, put your email address where it’s listed at the top, then click on the Liverpool FC newsletter. There are others too if you want them too.
- When you’ve made your choice, tap the Update Preferences button at the bottom.
That’s all! Your emails will arrive in your inbox from this point on. It’s that simple.
And those upset by Liverpool’s admittedly below-par display should remember how hugely out of place the anguished reaction to the all-out defeat to Napoli at Murrayfield last summer was in the end.
Salzburg, surprisingly robust throughout, had already played several other warm-up matches and that acuteness was evident in the opening half hour, while Liverpool, at least in this difficult period, showed signs of having passed a week in training camp.
It makes a difference. And so have the 1,250 fans who have been allowed to look inside, thankfully, making it the first time the Reds have played in front of fans since March.
A small step. But sign football, as we know and love, is on its way back.