Virgil Van Dijk has applauded Joel Matip after he was ‘targeted’ by Everton in their game against Liverpool last month.
Van Dijk was speaking to Rio Ferdinand for BT Sport’s Between The Lines series. Ferdinand asked the Liverpool man whether he felt attackers avoided taking him on during games.
Giving the example of the Everton game played just before filming, Virgil said that he definitely did. He also added that as a result, it’s often left to Matip to do the dirty work.
“Yes, for example, we played against Everton at the weekend, and I felt after the game that I didn’t have much challenges,” said Virgil.
“I looked at my partner on the right, Joel, and he was absolutely targeted. He was amazing that game by the way.”
Isn’t he always, Virg?
The hardest job in football
In some respects, being Van Dijk’s defensive partner is one of the hardest jobs in football. The Dutchman is absolutely right that teams prefer to attack down Liverpool’s right, avoiding having to get past him.
That leaves whoever’s playing next to Virgil with a lot more work to do. It also means you’re always being marked against the best centre-back in the world. Luckily for Liverpool, they have one of the most able deputies in football.
Perhaps Matip doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. But you get the impression that that doesn’t bother the 30-year-old one bit.
Instead, he quietly goes about being one of the best centre-back’s in Europe. Teams think they’ve cracked it by avoiding Van Dijk, only to come up against a player who’s very nearly as good.
He’s also handy at the other end too. Matip came up with big goals against Aston Villa and Southampton in the final weeks of the season. It was he caused the chaos to allow Mohamed Salah to score what could have been a title-winning goal on Sunday too.
Matip or Konate in the final
There is some debate as to whether Matip will get the nod for the Champions League final. Ibrahima Konate has taken the shirt from him recently, and it’s something Jurgen Klopp will have to decide on.
Konate had a lapse in concentration on Sunday, though. He completely misjudged Jose Sa’s goal-kick which allowed Wolves in to take the lead at Anfield.
Liverpool can’t afford anything like that against Real Madrid. Although Ibou has largely been brilliant since joining in the summer, he also gave away a cheap goal away to Benfica in the last-16.
By contrast, Matip hasn’t really put a foot wrong all season. When it comes down to it, we think Klopp might just plump for the experience of the Cameroonian.