Joel Matip has played down the significance of Liverpool’s first game back being against rivals Everton.
Liverpool were well on course to win a first league title in 30 years before the Premier League was suspended in March amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Things get back underway for the Reds on Sunday, when they make the trip across Merseyside to face Everton. Liverpool could have won the league on their rivals’ own turf, had Arsenal not slipped up against Manchester City on Wednesday.
Although that is no longer a possibility, it surely remains a case of when, not if, Liverpool will win the title. However, the fixture list could have given them a less intense first game back.
Nonetheless, Matip insists it makes no difference who Liverpool are playing against. The defender is simply itching to get back on the pitch – even if the circumstances will be “weird” for all involved.
“I think every game would be difficult, it doesn’t matter who we play against,” Matip told Liverpool’s official website.
“Now we play against Everton and this is a special game for both teams, but to start again I think will be a weird and special moment for every team.
“I think it doesn’t matter which team we played against or what were the circumstances, we just try to prepare as best as possible to be ready there and to really start quickly from the first second when we are back on the pitch, back in the stadium, for a proper Premier League game.
“It’s a great feeling to be back on the ball and [to be] looking forward to being back on the pitch and to play proper games. It will be fantastic to be back on the field.
“I think the circumstances for every team are quite difficult but we are well prepared and I am confident that we can strike back.”
Liverpool will win the league with just two more victories, but Matip has warned upcoming opponents that his side will continue to give their all even after they reach mathematical certainty of a first-placed finish.
Until that point, though, the former Cameroon international insists it is business as usual.
“We prepared to play all the games and do this in the best way that we can,” he explained.
“Nobody will stop when we achieve something, we are just looking to the next game and the next game and that’s how we do it at the moment.
“Everybody is looking forward to being back on the pitch and to win points and to win. We had to wait like everybody else but the whole team is just waiting to get some more points.
“It was weird to be waiting and to be that close, but you never know what could have happened. We are happy that we can now start playing again and we just try to do the best out of it.”
Return will be ‘hard’ behind closed doors
Unfortunately, Liverpool will not be able to win the league title in front of their fans. All remaining games will be played behind closed doors.
Matip admits that the absence of their supporters will make things more difficult – but his focus will be purely on the pitch.
“They can push you but we have to do it without them and we have to prepare ourselves to do it without our supporters,” he added. “It will be hard but we try to be ready to do it.
“I think it’s weird for everyone, not just for the people who are working. It’s just a different feeling to be there on the pitch but when you play against some strong sides and you have to fight for every centimetre, it doesn’t matter what is around you.”