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Opinion: Virgil van Dijk is the gold standard but this Liverpool star has stepped up immensely in 2019

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Liverpool opinion: Joel Matip has been the unsung hero for Liverpool in 2019

Liverpool lost Joe Gomez to a fractured lower leg in December against Burnley.

The English centre-back had done a wonderful job alongside Virgil van Dijk at the start of the campaign, and losing him for a couple of months was a big blow.

Matters were made worse when his fracture didn’t heal quickly. The youngster had to go under the knife which kept him out for an additional month.

Virgil van Dijk & Joe Gomez of Liverpool

Dejan Lovren was having fitness issues and Jurgen Klopp turned to one of his first signings at Liverpool, Joel Matip, to solve his centre-back problem.

The Cameroon defender was shunted down the pecking order at the start of the season, but the 27-year-old is possibly playing in the form of his life.

Matip showing his class alongside Van Dijk

It is difficult to ascertain if playing alongside Van Dijk turns every defender into a world-class centre-back but that is exactly what Matip has been since the start of 2019.

We must remember that the former Schalke defender missed a month with a broken collarbone suffered in the Champions League win over Napoli.

The 27-year-old hasn’t wowed Anfield since moving on a free from Schalke, however, he has been close to perfect in recent weeks.

In the last 10 games, Matip has started, we have only conceded seven goals. It isn’t easy coming into a team and performing at a high level, especially with so much riding on the season, but the centre-back has shown his class at the back.

Matip isn’t the quickest defender in the world but he does have one skill that is always on show, the ability to dribble with the ball.

The 27-year-old doesn’t always look like he is in control when he charges into the opposition half, but he causes havoc at the back.

His dribbles have caused mayhem in several games and it is only a matter of time when he smacks the ball into the net like Daniel Agger used to.

It is also telling that the manager hasn’t changed the pairing of Van Dijk and Matip even after Gomez  returned to fitness.

Gomez might be preferred to Matip but Klopp is taking his time bringing the Englishman back into the side.

The defender has made a couple of sub appearances recently and it seems like the right decision from Klopp to keep Matip in the starting XI.

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The Cameroonian wasn’t our first-choice at the start of the season at the back, but his performances have proved he is capable of doing a fine job for the Reds.

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“You deserve it”, “Music to my ears” – Several Liverpool fans pleased as key Reds star pens new contract extension

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Joel Matip signs new contract to extend stay at Liverpool

Liverpool confirmed that Joel Matip was the latest start to sign a new deal with the Premier League leaders.

The Cameroon defender joined from Schalke on a free transfer in 2016 and has been excellent over the past 12 months.

The 28-year-old has been consistent alongside Virgil van Dijk and has helped us become one of the best defences in Europe.

Joel Matip scores against Manchester City

The centre-back missed our last two games but was happy committing his future to the club (h/t LiverpoolFC.com):

“It’s a great feeling to be a longer part of the club. It’s really just a great feeling.”

Matip added that the Reds had a young team and are ready to win more trophies after landing the Champions League last season.

Back for the United game

The release from the club added that Matip should be ready to face Manchester United on Sunday, and we do need him.

Our defence hasn’t been all that tight this season, with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren playing alongside Van Dijk in recent games.

Matip will provide us with more assurance at the back, and we should be the favourites for the clash at Old Trafford.

The Cameroon star has turned things around at Anfield and has replaced Dejan Lovren as the partner for Van Dijk.

Gomez was the partner for the Dutchman last season, and Matip didn’t let the opportunity slip when the English defender was out due to a fracture.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino are some of the stars who have penned new deals in recent months at Anfield.

Many of our supporters were pleased at this news and here are some of the reactions from Twitter.

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Why copying Liverpool’s defence strategy is difficult for Manchester United or any other side – opinion

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Why United’s move for Harry Maguire was always destined to fail

Virgil van Dijk was the most expensive defender in the world and well, he did turn our fortunes around with some impressive performances.

From a leaky defence, we became the tightest unit last season, and that was the base for a fantastic campaign. The Reds were struggling at the back and landing Van Dijk worked out quite well, something which Manchester United did this summer.

The Red Devils splashed £80million on Harry Maguire to make him the most expensive defender in the world (h/t Express), however, things just haven’t worked out for them.

Michael Owen claimed that the move had failed since United didn’t have the same “calibre” of players as the Reds did (h/t Express). Maguire might be the most expensive defender in the world, but this move was always going to fail.

It isn’t only about the players at Liverpool

The Reds didn’t have the greatest set of defenders before Van Dijk’s arrival and his leadership qualities certainly have helped us at the back.

Things do look calmer here, but United also signed a quality right-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the summer. They had decent options for the other spots while David de Gea is regarded as one of the best keepers in the world.

Virgil van Dijk

So why hasn’t it worked for them? And in all probability, it won’t work for others too.

It all goes down to the manager and the coaches we have. Take Van Dijk out of the defence and we have Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez as his partners.

Each defender has grown leaps and bounds under Klopp. Gomez was possibly the best centre-back last season before he picked up that fracture.

Matip came into his own during the second half of the previous campaign while Lovren was excellent in the 2-1 win over Leicester City.

Joel Matip scores against Manchester City

Our full-backs have been fine-tuned to fit into this system and they are possibly the best in the league.

Andy Robertson came from Hull City and took time to adjust to Jurgen Klopp’s demands. Trent Alexander-Arnold took time to become one of the most consistent right-backs in the league, and the pair is excellent when going into the attack.

It is true that our defence didn’t look that great when Van Dijk wasn’t around but the people behind the scenes also deserve credit for fixing things at the back.

Our entire system works together in getting the best out of the players and that is something which is not in place at most clubs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t have toplevel experience and even after splashing big on Maguire, they still have a lot of work.

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Liverpool, on the other hand, have been excellent in their transfers over the years and our players are improving with each season under Klopp and co.

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Klopp doesn’t confirm if these 3 important Liverpool stars will face Manchester United

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Jurgen Klopp to take call on three players ahead of Manchester United clash

Jurgen Klopp was in a boisterous mood ahead of our clash against Manchester United on Sunday.

The German participated in his pre-match press conference and spoke on several topics.

The manager also provided an update on three players returning from injury.

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Joel Matip, Alisson and Mohamed Salah all carried knocks going into the international break, and Klopp claimed he would check on the trio before making a decision at the weekend:

Liverpool need to be at their best

Adrian has done a wonderful job in place of Alisson, but the Brazilian’s return would be a boost for us.

Salah is one of the best in the world while Matip could be the most important player to return. The Cameroon defender improves our defence and has been excellent alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Joel Matip

We need to be at our strongest when facing Manchester United, and Matip will be important for us. Joe Gomez struggled this season and he is a little rusty after returning from an injury last season.

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Dejan Lovren did well against Leicester City but Matip should be ahead in the pecking order. Salah also needs to have a great game, and it will be interesting to see how Liverpool do against our biggest rivals on Sunday.

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