Joel Matip made a fantastic case to start the Champions League final with his display against Wolves on Sunday. The defender was dominant.
Liverpool have one game left this season – the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid. It is, of course, the biggest of the season and Jurgen Klopp faces a series of selection decisions.
Choosing three of his five elite forwards will be tough, certainly. As will finding a midfield that works, given both Thiago and Fabinho face late fitness checks.
But there’s also centre-back. Virgil van Dijk is a certainty but who partners him in the final? We’ve seen Ibrahima Konate get the nod more often than not in big games recently and most imagined he’d start against Real.
Sunday, however, saw Konaté make a major error early on as he misjudged a goal-kick to allow Wolves the opening goal. Suddenly, there are questions over the Frenchman and whether he’s ready to start the Champions League final.
And to add to matters, his centre-back partner, Joel Matip, put in a world-class performance at Anfield.
Joel Matip should start the Champions League final
Matip was absolutely brilliant as Wolves troubled Liverpool. Their pace and intelligence on the counter-attack consistently caused problems but the Cameroonian was up to everything they threw at him.
And Matip’s stats from the game make for fantastic reading. The highlight was his heading – Matip won six headers out of six duels on Sunday. Sadio Mané was the only other Liverpool player to win one.
On top of that, Matip won four tackles across the 90 minutes. No one else on the pitch won more, while he also picked up two interceptions. Again, no one matched that for Liverpool.
He was fantastic with the ball, too, as Matip completed 91% of his passes and created two chances for teammates. It was simply a wonderful all-around performance and one that, for us, earns him a starting spot on Saturday.
Matip has been ‘outstanding’ this season, in the words of Klopp, and at his best, he’s up there with anyone right now. Konaté has been fantastic, too, but we’re not sure he’s truly at Matip’s level just yet.
This was a reminder that the 30-year-old is one of the world’s best and that he can seriously trouble Real in Paris.