Joe Gomez faces one of the biggest tests of his career as Liverpool face Norwich City and Atletico Madrid. The games could decide his short-term future.
Liverpool have just had a two-week break – the first-team, anyway. It’s the longest break since the summer and one that throws up possibilities.
Will they be fitter and sharper than ever? Will the break have interrupted their rhythm? The latter is an interesting one and something that affects one player more than any other.
The Liverpool first XI is pretty much set, after all. There are just two questions – who plays alongside Virgil van Dijk and how do you sort the midfield?
That first question has two possible answers. Jurgen Klopp can either continue with Joe Gomez thanks to his wonderful form or he can recall Joel Matip.
Matip had the position this time last season, of course. He helped the Reds win the Champions League and was a standout. Matip then retained the position to begin the season, only for an injury to force him out.
He hadn’t started last season there, however. Gomez had, only for injury to rule him out, too. The problem, though, is that Gomez never regained his form. The time out was too much of an interruption and he didn’t take his place back for nearly a year.
Gomez was playing wonderfully in December and January as Liverpool racked up clean-sheets. Now he’s had that rhythm interrupted, though – not through injury but through an enforced winter break.
So while everyone will have to find that rhythm, eyes will be on Gomez more than anyone else. He’s the player with the most trouble finding his form after a break, after all.
And this comes at an important time. Klopp will be building his first-choice XI for the Champions League knockout-stage over the coming weeks and everyone needs to take their chances.
Gomez has his against Norwich and, presumably, Atletico. If he takes them, he could solidify his place in the starting XI. One that, potentially, he won’t give up for a long time to come.
Fail, however, and the tried-and-trusted Matip is there to take his place.