A few good days in training and an appearance off the bench against Plymouth in the FA Cup or Southampton in the EFL Cup before a start against Manchester United when league action kicks back off on the 15th. Such is the hope for Joël Matip, who is nearing a return to full training following an ankle injury last month.
“It’s getting better, and in a few days I hope I’ll be back in training,” the German-born centre half told the club’s official website today, shortly after learning he had been left off the Cameroon AFCON squad at his request and so wouldn’t have to choose international retirement to avoid any potential FIFA censure.
"That's the plan but you never know how it will go,” he noted. “We are really positive and hope that this chapter is closed. It was my left ankle, a ligament was damaged. At the beginning it needed rest but after this I wanted to play too early, but now I'm on a good way. I want to be fitter and then the other things will come."
Matip’s signing flew under the radar for many given he signed a pre-contract with the club last January and then arrived in the summer on a free. Over the autumn, though, he quickly proved himself a key player and, still just 24 years of age, one with the potential to become one of the best centre halves in the league.
The only mark against, really, has been injuries. Matip suffered an ankle injury during pre-season that kept him out at the start of the season, and it was in fact a re-aggravation of that earlier ankle that has caused him to miss ten games for the club over the past six weeks. The club believe that his ankle is now fully recovered.