It would be a bit of an exaggeration to suggest that Joël Matip was Liverpool’s forgotten man among their central defenders, but given his unfortunate preseason knock plus the combination of Dejan Lovren’s post-World Cup hangover and Joe Gomez’s sterling play, there hasn’t exactly been a throng of supporters wondering when the Cameroon international would return to the lineup.
That day was Saturday. Matip was called into action against Southampton alongside Virgil van Dijk, while Gomez was given a rest. In addition to lasting the entire match and contributing to another clean sheet at Anfield, Matip got in on the goalscoring action, steering a header into the net - Liverpool’s second goal of the day - from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner. All in all, a solid day at the office for the seldom used defender.
With Van Dijk nursing a bruised rib and a slew of tough matches around the corner, it will have done everyone’s confidence a world of good to see Matip slot in rather seamlessly at the back. And when asked about the prospect additional playing time, Matip was diplomatic in making his case.
“They played the whole season well and there was no reason to change,” he stated, speaking to the club’s website about the Gomez-Van Dijk partnership that has helped Liverpool to seven straight wins. “I was injured and still needed some time to get in and to be on a good level, but I am on a good way and this was a good step.”
“I still need some time but I am on a good way and we have a lot of games, a lot of players, so I hope that I can also play a few games more.”
If there is any uncertainty at all about Van Dijk’s ribs, Matip won’t need to hope.