Since a knee injury shattered his sustained momentum in the team, Joel Matip has gone on to play just one minute of Premier League football since October.
The Cameroonian defender limped off at Old Trafford four months ago and his progress since has come to an unfaltering halt.
Matip was in the form of his life prior to the setback, partnered alongside Virgil van Dijk, the former Schalke defender was at the peak of his powers and had usurped both Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren as the big Dutchman’s leading central defensive partner.
In the opening weeks of the 2019/20 season, it was Matip who was Liverpool’s standout defender in the 100 per cent run-up before his injury.
The 28-year-old was utterly outstanding and his ability to run out from defence with the ball was a joy to behold. In crucial fixtures against Chelsea (a), Sheffield United (a) and Southampton (a) it was Matip who was putting his body on the line to keep Liverpool’s early title charge on track.
His form was so good, in fact, that the PFA named him Player of the Month back in September. For a player who had been in the shadow of Virgil van Dijk, people were finally recognising Matip’s own qualities.
Matip has since returned but has been an unused substitute in five of Liverpool’s previous eight Premier League matches. Lovren was given the call over the towering centre-back at Vicarage Road in the absence of Gomez who suffered a muscle problem – which would suggest Matip is still yet to prove he is 100 per cent fit to manager Jurgen Klopp.
The man hailed by the German boss ‘as one of my best signings ever’ has been on the peripheral since his set back and it remains to be seen when he will be thrown back into the mix.
Lovren was catastrophic against Watford and Troy Deeney while Gomez also struggled on his return at Stamford Bridge. With the FA Cup out of contention, Matip’s best hope for minutes is the hope that Klopp could look to rest Gomez for the Atletico clash in midweek opening the door for the former Bundesliga star.
Whether Klopp will integrate Matip against Bournemouth with the business end of the season firmly upon us remains to be seen. However, with Liverpool looking so disjointed and lacking composure in recent weeks, it could be worth a gamble to give Matip another chance to prove his worth.