Chelsea v Liverpool: The Emirates FA Cup Final
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'He's been fantastic': Jamie Carragher says Liverpool have a defender who's been just as good as Van Dijk this season

Jamie Carragher has claimed that Joel Matip has been playing on the same level as Virgil Van Dijk for Liverpool in the Premier League this season.

Asked to name his Team of the Season via Football Daily, Carragher went with the Liverpool pair at the back. Told to explain his decision, the pundit said Matip is a defender as good as Van Dijk.

“He’s been fantastic,” said Carra. “He’s been as good as Virgil Van Dijk this season, he’s been outstanding, he really has.”

The former Liverpool defender said his choice was between Matip and one of the Manchester City defenders. But ultimately, The Reds unsung hero got his vote.

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“Last season I think I may have said (Ruben) Dias was player of the year, I just think he’s maybe not been himself, he’s had a few injury problems,” he said.

“I think Matip this season, his ability to come out with the ball as well, his defensive record alongside Virgil Van Dijk is outstanding. I could’ve maybe gone for a City centre-back in there if you like, Laporte’s maybe played a little bit more than Dias, but I think Matip’s been outstanding this season.”

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Overdue recognition for Joel

It’s refreshing to see Liverpool’s number 32 getting some well deserved recognition. Matip has been virtually faultless this season and has contributed well in an attacking sense as well.

While there isn’t a defender as good as Van Dijk on the planet, the big Cameroonian certainly comes mighty close.

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There are some, like Sky Sports presenter Dave Jones, who may scoff at such a view. For those who watch him on a regular basis though, they’ll know that Carragher is absolutely spot-on.

Van Dijk may take the headlines, but as a centre-back, you’re only as good as your partner. In Matip, Virgil has one of the very best around.

Defensive decisions to make for Klopp

As good as Matip has been, it looks as though Ibrahima Konate might just be squeezing him out of his place at the end of the season.

The 22-year-old started ahead of his more experienced teammate for Saturday’s FA Cup final. That was the biggest indication yet from Jurgen Klopp that his defensive pecking order has shifted.

Of course there is still one more final left to play for Liverpool. Who partners Van Dijk is a big decision that the manager will have to make.

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Konate may be favoured for his pace and ability to cover Trent Alexander-Arnold’s forays forwards. But Matip has been there and done it in a Champions League final, Klopp might be wiser to go with his experience and chemistry with Van Dijk.

Whatever the decision, Liverpool are in good hands.

It looks as though Virgil will be fit and ready for the final having given Liverpool an injury scare on Saturday. Losing the big man for the biggest game would be a travesty for The Reds chances.

Should he suffer any kind of setback though, expect Matip to step up and show exactly why he is so loved by his teammates and fans.

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