Liverpool’s upcoming clash against Manchester United is gargantuan, to say the least. It’s arguably a match the Reds cannot afford to lose given the three-point deficit currently between the two teams. With that said, the involvement of Joel Matip is a must for such an important fixture.
What was particularly impressive about United’s victory against Burnley last night was the team’s ability to remain resolute and win ugly. It wasn’t pretty in the slightest, but they got the job done. This was the bedrock of Liverpool’s title success last season.
In truth, United were indebted to their defensive set-up following the 1-0 triumph at Turf Moor, particularly centre-back duo Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly.
This is something Liverpool have frustratingly lacked in recent weeks, a scenario that was completely unforeseen at the start of the season.
Jurgen Klopp went into the season with three Premier League-winning centre-backs, after all. He currently has none.
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With that said, the remainder of Liverpool’s title charge could hinge on the fitness of one player – Matip. This could be over-exaggeration, too. However, as Sir Alex Ferguson famously said: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”
Indeed, Matip’s fitness issues are an obvious concern – they have been ever since he signed from Schalke in 2016 [BBC]. However, there is still a cause for optimism.
Matip has proven us wrong before
Liverpool were in a similar position two years ago when locked in a title battle with Manchester City. Joe Gomez was injured and Fabinho was forced to partner Virgil van Dijk at the back.
However, Klopp was able to call upon Matip back in January 19 to return to his defensive duties.
From that moment on, the Cameroonian defender went on to clock up 20 appearances. He wasn’t once ruled out through injury during that period. Of course, Liverpool went on to clock up 97 points in the league as well as winning a sixth European Cup.
More importantly, however, it showcased how consistently brilliant Matip could be when given a sustained run of form. Liverpool are crying out for such at present.
Alongside Van Dijk, Matip was outstanding. His faultless display in the Champions League final typified as such.
Remarkably, Matip – who earns £100,000-a-week according to Spotrac – hasn’t lost a Premier League match since January 2018. That tells you all you need to know on how effective he can be for Liverpool. It also demonstrates just how many matches he has missed, also.
Keeping Matip fit, then, could ultimately decide the outcome of the title. His influence on the team in 2018/19 proves as such.
There is no doubt that Liverpool can put out a fantastic title winning XI on Sunday against United. The main issue is that the team lack depth in key areas as a result of injuries.
Matip can effectively solve this issue if he were to remain fit. We’ve seen firsthand just how brilliant he and Fabinho are together, after all.
It’s vital, then, that somehow, Matip and Klopp uncover a way to keep him durable until the end of the season. Without him, Liverpool risk losing further ground in the title race.