Klopp rejects Joel Matip’s ‘vulnerable’ tag as he eyes long run for “incredible player”

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Jurgen Klopp has dismissed the perception that Joel Matip is “vulnerable” to injuries, with the Liverpool manager hoping to rely upon his “incredible” centre-back.

Matip finds himself in the rare position of being the Reds’ only fit senior centre-back, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both injured and Dejan Lovren sold to Zenit St Petersburg in the summer.

The No. 32 will now be a regular starter again, likely partnered by an out-of-position Fabinho, but also potentially alongside one of the inexperienced trio of Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio.

It is a demanding position for a player who featured just 13 times last season due to injury, and has already missed a portion of this campaign due to a further issue.

But speaking ahead of a second consecutive start for Matip as Liverpool take on Leicester on Sunday night, Klopp heaped praise on the Cameroonian and attributed his injuries to bad luck, rather than vulnerability.

“The best footballer age!” he said, when asked if, at 29, Matip will be entering his peak as a centre-back.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Joel, since he’s been with us, has been incredible. He was incredible before, that’s why we signed him. He’s an incredible football player, it’s unbelievable how good he is.

“Yes, he was unlucky with injuries – before he arrived here, no injuries, he played for Schalke pretty much through four, five, six years.

“Here then it starts, then you have to lucky in one specific moment, but they are all different.

“The last injury [at the end of last season], somebody cut his tendon on the toe by swishing it.

“So it looks like you are vulnerable, but it’s just something everybody would have had if they were in the situation.

“Now he’s back and hopefully for a long time. If he’s in the best moment of his career, I don’t know, but I was really happy with the moment of his career which he was in for the last four years. Super player.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 24, 2019: Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The last time Matip started two games in a row was during a run of seven consecutive starts at the start of last season which, if discounting the League Cup, would have been eight.

During that period he produced some of the best form of his Liverpool career, earning a new five-year contract that ties him to the club until 2024, when he will be nearing his 33rd birthday.

Given the injuries that followed, the decision to hand Matip such a long contract came into question, but if he can revive his fortunes with the responsibility of leading Klopp’s makeshift defence, he could defy the scrutiny.

Klopp clearly has belief in the player he brought from Schalke in 2016, and now it is time for Matip to reward this with a prolonged run in a winning side.

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