Joel Matip vs. Tranmere Rovers. Credit: Propaganda

Liverpool decide against risking Joel Matip vs. Plymouth

Jurgen Klopp has opted against including Joel Matip in his Liverpool squad to take on Plymouth Argyle, amid a dispute over his eligibility.

The Reds manager had been debating whether to include Matip for Wednesday night’s FA Cup third-round replay at Home Park, with FIFA yet to rule whether the centre-back is available to play.

Cameroon have sparked a dispute with Matip following his withdrawal from duty for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations, refusing to recognise his international retirement.

This could see FIFA suspend Matip for the duration of the tournament, though Liverpool are confident that won’t be the case.

But after talks with the club’s legal team and owners Fenway Sports Group on Tuesday, Klopp has decided not to risk including Matip, with the 25-year-old not among the players to fly to Exeter on Wednesday morning.

This was no doubt aided by the return to fitness of Lucas Leiva, with the Brazilian recovering from a knee problem to join his team-mates on the flight.

Along with Lucas, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge were among those to travel, with the rest of the plane filled with youngsters.

Klavan is likely to partner Joe Gomez at centre-back, with Lucas potentially taking up his former midfield role, while Coutinho could be named on the substitutes’ bench.

Speaking at his press conference ahead of the trip to Plymouth on Tuesday, Klopp lamented FIFA’s lackadaisical approach to Matip’s eligibility, stressing he had long since retired from duty.

“It’s not about blaming anybody, but it’s not too easy to get in contact with the decisive people,” he explained.

“It’s the president of the Cameroon football association, of course, and on the other side [Gianni] Infantino, from FIFA.

“Even though it’s clear he’s retired, what we need is a letter from the official side from Cameroon to say ‘OK, the player’s released and he can play for Liverpool’.”

FIFA are set to make a decision over whether to investigate Cameroon’s claims on Friday, which could see Matip cleared to return to action for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Swansea City.

If not, he could miss a significant portion of Liverpool’s winter schedule, depriving Klopp of one of his key players.

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