It wasn’t long ago that we wanted Joel Matip nowhere near the starting XI. We were flying high and setting up shop with the back pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, thank you very much. I mean Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren. I mean Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho? At this rate it might need to be Virgil van Dijk and a lad from the Kop.
All of this is to say that Matip, who made the bench against Brighton, is back in full training following his broken collar bone, and is likely to get the start against Crystal Palace. The upshot is that we’ll have two fit, senior center backs for the first time in several matches.
When everyone is fully fit, Matip is probably fourth choice. But considering the recent dearth of healthy center backs, most Reds will be very happy to see the tall Cameroonian defender suited up on Saturday.
This, of course, does not solve the personnel issue at right back, but hey, gotta put out one fire at a time.
Kai-Jana Hoever, the 16-year-old Dutch defender who can play at right back and central defence is reportedly training with the first team at Melwood this week. So, too, is 18-year-old Rafael Camacho. Both Camacho (right back) and Hoever (central defence) were deployed in the 2-1 defeat in the FA Cup to Wolves. While we probably don’t want to deploy both again, one or the other might do a job for a game or two.
However, the more likely options to deputize at right back remain midfielders Fabinho or James Milner. Hopefully the yutes remain confined to Melwood and the bench, and we don’t have a “break glass” moment.