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Liverpool’s Matip Wary of Danger From Above

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Liverpool’s central defender confirms that the squad have been focused on defending against crosses and set pieces in training.

Derby County v Liverpool - EFL Cup Third Round Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Liverpool have scored a lot of goals so far this season. Unfortunately for supporters, Jürgen Klopp’s men have also let in a fair number at the other end. Among the usual suspects at the top third of the table, Liverpool are presently the only team to have conceded in double digits at this stage of the season. The Merseyside club’s perpetual vulnerability at set pieces is a grim joke that has long ceased to be funny.

Manchester United will be the next visitors to Anfield. José Mourinho’s side can hurt their opposition in a number of ways (note to self: resist lazy joke about boring opponents into submission), and in Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (not to mention Chris Smalling or Eric Bailly), the visitors have the size to test Liverpool yet again from the air. Defenders Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip, who are not exactly diminutive themselves, will be tasked with minimizing the aerial threat, and Matip revealed that the squad paid particular attention to this issue during training over the international break.

We have to defend against this and we have lots of practices. This week we practised against crosses and high balls. If the ball comes in my area I have to give everything to try and clear it.

The team is working hard to improve defending. The manager wants clean sheets. We know there are a lot of games you have to win 1-0.

I get very angry when we concede. If we win it’s good, but I always have the goal we conceded in my head. I think about it for days afterwards.

It’s encouraging to know the squad is working on rectifying a problem, though it would probably be more surprising if they were not focused on the issue. Matip has brought a noticeable air of calm and stability to the back line since arriving from Schalke, and while there have been a few mistakes from time to time, the burgeoning partnership with Lovren has been largely encouraging.

Together, the pair have managed to mostly keep Harry Kane and Diego Costa in check so far this season, two notoriously tricky customers. Assuming Lovren is able to start (a knock sustained during the match with Swansea City appears to have been minor), the duo will have their hands full once again with Ibrahimovic, who hasn’t scored in a few league matches (so he is probably due). If Liverpool supporters were waiting for the day in which they could watch their team defend a corner without a knot of grim anxiety in their bellies, tomorrow probably is not that day.