When Joe Gomez went off injured in the first half at Turf Moor in December 2018, not many, if any, Liverpool fans realised the extent of his injury.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went on to beat Burnley 3-1 that night but Gomez’s injury took the shine off what was an impressive come-from-behind victory for the Reds.
The then-21-year-old had been in the best form of his young career as he settled into a central-defensive partnership alongside Dutch giant Virgil van Dijk.
Gomez had, somewhat surprisingly, managed to nail down a starting place for himself in Liverpool’s back four at the expense of both Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip. Then the injury struck.
It was a fracture to Gomez’s lower left leg that would keep him out of action until April. In fact, the former Charlton player had to undergo surgery on the leg-break in February to aid his return to fitness.
Gomez started 12 of Liverpool’s first 15 Premier League games last season before the injury. Nine of those games were at centre-back with the team only conceding 4 goals in those fixtures.
Joel Matip was the man to step into Gomez’s place in December. However, after Liverpool defeated Napoli at Anfield to progress in the Champions League, it was revealed that Matip had broken his collarbone late in the game.
Matip returned to the starting lineup six weeks later in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield. After that, his performance levels hit heights they had never previously reached on Merseyside. Matip became an integral part of Klopp’s back four which would carry Liverpool to their sixth European Cup triumph.
Gomez is now back fighting fit and will have a full pre-season training programme at Melwood under his belt, come August. Yet, Matip will be well rested after the summer break due to having retired from international duty with Cameroon in 2015 – he is not at the AFCON.
Croatian centre-half Dejan Lovren could be on his way out of Anfield after finding himself slip down the pecking order of Klopp’s preferred defenders. Therefore, it seems the battle will be between Gomez and Matip to partner Van Dijk in 2019/20.
Matip will not be surrendering his starting place to Gomez anytime soon and the young England defender will know he has a job on his hands to get back into Klopp’s first eleven.