Klopp backs ‘edgy’ Liverpool centre-back amid… criticism?

Will Ford
Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he “cannot help people who do not see the quality of Joel Matip”. Who those people are, we don’t know…

The former Cameroon international is set to make his 100th Liverpool appearance against Crystal Palace this weekend and has not missed a minute of football so far this season.

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He’s been plagued by niggling injuries throughout his Anfield career but has been consistently solid for Liverpool, who bizarrely felt the need to defend the centre-back in his press conference.

“I cannot help people who do not see the quality of Joel Matip,” added Klopp, responding to absent criticism.

“He was a bit unlucky in the past with injury here and there, maybe not always the most difficult things, but he is a big boy, a big player, tall and can look from time to time a bit ‘edgy’ or whatever but he is an incredible player.

“He’s always been incredible since he joined us. We needed the quality. We now have five top-class centre-halves (Nat Phillips is the other) and that’s good to have and necessary.”

Klopp is optimistic that his handling of Virgil Van Dijk’s game time will be a short-term plan rather than a policy which will have longer implications.

Although he completed rehabilitation from surgery on anterior cruciate ligament surgery in time to be fit for the start of the season, Klopp is wary of the need to ease him back.

The influential centre-back was rested for Wednesday’s 3-2 Champions League victory over AC Milan, but will return for Palace’s visit to Anfield and Klopp hopes the short-term pain of occasionally being without his talismanic defender in the early part of the season will lead to a long-term gain.

“I would rather say it’s a short-term thing. We are still in the extended pre-season if you want, especially for him having had a long time out,” said the Reds boss.

“He was completely fine. He could have played, definitely, but I want to be sensible in these moments now because I have to be.

“For the Milan game it worked really well but it will not be like that I now always do exactly that and say Virgil is not ready to play in a game but we are early in the season and it was the right thing to do.”