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Joel Matip Prepared to Step Up After Sakho, Gomez Injuries

Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Defender Joel Matip ended a 16-year stretch with Schalke when he agreed to transfer to Liverpool in February.

He said leaving his hometown club, which had helped develop him into a first-choice center back, was a difficult decision. But he knew it was time to move on in pursuit of grander ambitions.

And with recent injuries to defenders Mamadou Sakho and Joe Gomez, Matip will have an immediate chance to prove that his big jump was worthwhile.

"I had a decision to stay at Schalke or go out into the world," he explained in an extensive interview with the Echo. "That's why I came [to Liverpool] - I want to play against the best to become better."

Matip added that he grew up with the dream of one day playing in the Premier League, with Liverpool his preferred destination.

But even though he said he's settled in and happy to be at Anfield, the tall defender acknowledged that stepping into a key defensive role for the team this season would be a challenge.

"There's pressure but I want that - it's the reason why I came here," Matip said. "I think I am good enough and I'll show this."

The losses of Sakho and Gomez, no matter how severe, will hurt. But having a 24-year-old defender like Matip who possesses such confidence in his own potential, as well as an intriguing combination of height and ball-playing ability, gives Jürgen Klopp a much needed Plan B to work with.

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