Joel Matip has vowed to do his best while being Liverpool’s only fit senior centre-back, but says he is not the only player to be taking on extra responsibility.
Liverpool have lost Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to long-term injuries that could put them both out for the season. It has left Matip as their only recognised option at the back.
The Premier League champions chose not to sign a replacement for Dejan Lovren in the summer. That left them with just three centre-backs, and two will now be unavailable for several months.
Matip* has had his own injury struggles in recent years, but will now be hoping to stay fit so that he can cement his place as Liverpool’s go-to man at the back.
Now, the former Cameroon international has admitted that Liverpool’s medical department has been giving him extra advice so that he can stay in the best shape possible.
“The fitness or medical department always try to tell you to improve things,” Matip said.
“We are working on different things. Sometimes you don’t have that much influence on it, but we are working hard to keep every player as fit as possible.
“This includes me and I hope, and I’m looking forward, to be playing as much as possible and to stay fit.”
Liverpool have found themselves in an extraordinary situation when it comes to injuries this season. Only having one fit centre-back could disrupt their chances of retaining their title.
However, they have started the season strongly, and Matip admits all squad members are doing their bit to step up.
“Players like them every team would miss,” he said of Van Dijk and Gomez. “But every player has to step in and we have a lot of games so there will probably be a few changes over the weeks.
“But we’re feeling good and we have to perform with the players that are there and I have all the confidence in my teammates that we can perform on the best level we can.”
So far, Jurgen Klopp has turned to midfielder Fabinho when looking for players who can cover at the back. He has also called upon academy players Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams.
Matip has lined up alongside a number of different partners at the back. He admits he has had to adapt his own game accordingly, but maintains that all those who come in are good enough.
“Of course every player reacts different in some kind of situation, but for them it’s the same. You have to react and you have to adapt with it, but it’s not only this [the defence], the whole team have to include players when they come in.
“So far we did it quite good and I am confident that it doesn’t matter what happens, we always include the player who does come in so that they can settle and they can play the best football they can play. But of course, every player has to adapt, yes.”
Matip hoping to help others
Given his seniority in comparison to those who could play alongside him at the back, Matip has taken on a larger share of responsibility in recent weeks.
While he is focusing on ensuring his own game stays at a high level, he acknowledges he is happy to provide a reference point for those looking up to him.
“I always try to play my part and try to be the best player I can be, and if I can help some players at the moment more then of course I would really like to do this.
“But we have a team with a lot of great players and everybody tries to help each other. But if I can step in and help them more, of course I would be really thankful for this also.”
Arguably Liverpool’s best player so far this season has been Diogo Jota, who has made an instant impact since joining from Wolves.
Asked if the attacker has helped improve his own game in training, Matip responded by confirming the challenge of competing in such a talented squad is what has made Liverpool so successful in recent years.
“Of course he brought extra quality but we have quality in our team and every training [session] is a challenge, especially for a defender.
“You can improve and it’s a challenge to enjoy playing against the best players, even in training, and this helped everybody to improve. I think this is the way we have been going in the last few years and it worked quite good so far.”
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