Joel Matip is running out of time to prove his fitness to manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of Sunday’s gargantuan encounter with Manchester United, according to reports.
This comes from The Mirror. They claim that Matip has progressed to training in specially-prepared sessions with the club’s physio’s, as he returns from an adductor injury sustained during the 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27.
Matip, 29, has since missed disappointing results against Newcastle and Southampton. In the long-term absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, the Cameroonian defender has become a vital cog in Klopp’s defensive quartet.
The issue for the former Schalke star, as has been his entire Liverpool tenure, is Matip’s ability to stay fit. He has started just seven of Liverpool’s 17 Premier League matches this season, after all.
According to The Mirror, Matip is back up-and-running and working with the ball on the grass. He is still, however, yet to join his teammates in first-team training. Klopp would need to see him train for two full-sessions before he is deemed in contention for United.
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That effectively leaves him with a small window of opportunity to showcase his fitness before Sunday. There is still time, but if Matip is going to step-up ahead of Liverpool’s biggest match of the season, now is certainly the time.
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Matip is arguably too important a miss for a game of such epic proportions in how the season could shape out. Klopp will be desperate he can save him another central defensive headache.
The Liverpool boss utilised Fabinho with Jordan Henderson in the Reds’ most recent league match against Southampton. In truth, it didn’t work. The tactical tweak took too much away from Henderson’s game in midfield and the skipper’s influence in his preferred position was sorely missed.
Klopp could still turn to either Rhys Williams or Nat Phillips to partner Fabinho at the heart of the defence. However, such a gamble would be considered untimely given the opposition and the need to get a result.
With that said, Matip’s influence becomes all the more integral. He hasn’t been able to sustain a significant run of games in the team since the second half of the 2018/19 campaign. Liverpool could so desperately benefit from a similar reign of form now.
Let’s hope Matip – who earns £100,000-a-week according to Spotrac – can spare Klopp a selection headache for at least another week. His influence could still yet shape whether or not Liverpool are to retain their title, such is his importance in recent months.