Alan Shearer has told BBC Sport that he believes Jurgen Klopp’s decision to reinstate Joel Matip back into Liverpool’s defensive quartet made the team a much more solidified unit during the 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Sunday.
The Premier League champions were forced to settle for a point against their closest title rivals last season after Mohamed Salah’s opener from the spot was cancelled out by Gabriel Jesus as the spoils were shared.
Liverpool remain five points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side in the league table, although City do still have a game in hand. A draw for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds sees them go into the international break in third while City sit 10th.
Matip, 29, was back in Liverpool’s starting XI for the first time since the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park last month. The Cameroonian international was paired alongside Joe Gomez – and Shearer believes Klopp’s 36th alternative central defensive pairing was crucial in the team keeping City at bay for the majority of the match.
“Liverpool have had issues too, mainly in adjusting to life without the injured Virgil van Dijk, but Joel Matip came back into their defence at Etihad Stadium and they looked a little bit more solid,” Shearer said.
“Their big setback this season was obviously the 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa, which was a result that shocked everyone – but it’s notable that they have not lost in seven games since.
“They can still terrify teams when they pour forward and, like City, they are not going away anytime soon. This season may be unpredictable, but one of them will end it as champions, I am certain of that.”
What RTK has to say
Shearer is spot on. Matip certainly bolstered Klopp’s defensive options and alongside Gomez, the German manager has two well-established and experienced professionals.
The main difficulty is keeping both players fit before the transfer window opens again in January as Matip and Gomez have worrying injury records, particularly in the case of the former.
Matip’s performance at the Etihad Stadium was only the second occasion in the last 12 months in which he was able to successfully complete a 90-minute match.
His previous outing prior to the City encounter was against Everton which resulted in him sustaining muscle damage which subsequently saw Matip miss Liverpool’s six matches.
Thankfully for Klopp, the international break has come at a good time especially following the fitness setback to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is set to be ruled out for the next four weeks.
Both Matip and Alexander-Arnold are expected to remain on Merseyside as Liverpool finally move into their new state-of-the-art AXA training complex.
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