Liverpool play Manchester United later today and Joel Matip must play if he’s fit. Jurgen Klopp has little choice – even if it’s a frightening prospect.
This is the biggest game of Liverpool’s season. That’s almost unquestionable. It’s against one of their massive rivals who now top the league.
If Liverpool lose, they fall six points back. Win and they go top once again. And that’s just the obvious stuff.
Liverpool are also in the midst of their worst patch of Premier League form in years. The only comparable period over the last few campaigns came in April/May 2018 but they had no shot at the title. Instead, Liverpool almost entirely focused on their Champions League run.
So a defeat to United today would feel like a huge blow at the wrong time. The opportunity is there to springboard back into good form – Liverpool can’t really afford to miss it.
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And with all that in mind, we think Jurgen Klopp simply has to risk Joel Matip against United if he’s fit.
Simply put, Liverpool will have a weak defence out there if Matip doesn’t play. There are doubts that he will, though.
Matip hasn’t featured for a few games now and only re-joined training on Saturday. There’s no way he’s at his best, then.
Injuries have once again derailed his season and potentially Liverpool’s. But despite the lack of games and short return to training, he has to play.
Without him, Liverpool would either have a kid at the back or Jordan Henderson. Neither is ideal.
Rhys Williams did a good job against Tottenham Hotspur but Spurs attacked almost entirely through two players. As good as those players were, it was easier to cover Williams – and Son Heung-Min still scored.
But United will attack in greater numbers on the break. It’s just their style. That will ask more of Williams and he may not be up to it.
Matip is a far greater player back there and even at 60 per cent, should have the experience to handle United.
But this is a massive risk. If Matip was to aggravate his injury and spend more time out, it could cripple Liverpool’s season. Let alone if that injury ruled him out for a significant period of time.
Still, this game is so huge in the context of Liverpool’s season that we think it’s worth the risk. It’s virtually necessary to take that risk.
Yes, it could backfire and compromise Liverpool in later fixtures. But the injury crisis forces Klopp to take that chance.
If it pays off, it’ll all be well worth it.