Everton and Carlo Ancelotti can look to exploit Joel Matip’s shortcomings in the Merseyside Derby with Jurgen Klopp backed to start the Liverpool defender this Saturday.
Klopp is expected to make changes to his championship-winning backline for this weekend’s clash at Goodison Park having been humiliated by Aston Villa last time out, with Dean Smith’s side running riot to claim a 7-2 victory.
Joe Gomez has come in for much criticism since the result, with the Liverpool Echo noting how the England international struggled at Villa Park up against hat-trick hero Ollie Watkins with a performance that hammered home the calls for Liverpool to sign a new centre-half.
Klopp even saw fit to haul Gomez off after 61 minutes having produced what the Echo described as a three out of ten performance, given he was at fault for Villa’s second and fifth efforts, almost allowed Ross Barkley in to score and that his early withdrawal was an act of mercy.
Yet Deadline Day passed without Klopp greeting any late defensive reinforcements, and it is expected that the German will instead look elsewhere in his squad come Saturday for potential answers in the hopes of preventing another crisis result.
The Liverpool Echo suggest that man will be Matip, with the £100,000-per-week Cameroon international backed to bring a calming influence to a unit that has shipped the second-most goals after four games, with a total equaling one-third of the 33 allowed throughout last term.
Matip has thus far played just the single minute of Premier League football this season as he continued to regain fitness following the recurring injuries which plagued his title-winning 2019/20 campaign.
Klopp confirmed that Matip missed last month’s 2-0 win away to Chelsea through a muscle injury, but noted before his side travelled to south West London that he expected the £28.8m-rated centre-half would be available for selection following the international break.
“It’s not the worst thing in the world, but a few weeks, a couple of weeks, probably after the international break he will be ready again,” the German said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo.
But should Matip start against Everton this Saturday, Ancelotti can look to exploit one weakness he displayed last term compared to Gomez, even though Klopp considers the Cameroon international to be an “incredible talent” (Independent) his side were lucky to sign for free.
Over Matip’s nine outings in the 19/20 league season, the 29-year-old was dribbled past on average 0.78 times a game – more than any of Liverpool’s other centre-halves and more than double that of Gomez who was beaten on 0.38 occasions, per SofaScore.
Matip also recorded fewer interceptions than Gomez, but was far superior in the air with 5.22 duels won to the England international’s 2.5 – showing that Ancelotti’s best weapon to beat Klopp’s suspected answer will be on the ground, where Richarlison thrives.
Richarlison currently ranks third in the Premier League for successful dribbles, with his 16 narrowly behind Fulham’s Andre Zambo Anguissa (18) and Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Adama Traore (22).
The 23-year-old Brazil international also tops the charts for ground duels won in the top-flight this term, having won 40 of his contests – Liverpool’s best comes from Sadio Mane’s 24, enough to rank joint-tenth with James Rodriguez.