Just a day before Liverpool’s Champions League quarterfinal tie against Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp was hit with terrible news.
Joel Matip, the Reds’ first-choice centre-half, requires surgery on an injury suffered on the weekend – a devastating blow to Liverpool’s chances of victory against the Citizens.
The centre-back pairing of Matip and Virgil van Dijk has been imperious, with the strength, size, and intelligence of the two imposing defenders stifling opposition attacks.
Liverpool’s solid defense has been an underappreciated asset in their season thus far, understandably overshadowed by the attacking brilliance of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane.
In their last eight matches, the Reds have conceded just four goals, a simply remarkable feat that illustrates the cohesiveness and solidity of their defense.
However, with the absence of key cog Joel Matip, Liverpool’s backline suddenly appears far more vulnerable. In the only match Liverpool have lost in their previous eight, Dejan Lovren featured instead of Matip, leading to a 2-1 loss to Manchester United.
Reports from the Liverpool Echo suggest that the much-maligned Croatian centre-back will slot into the starting lineup for Wednesday’s match, which undoubtedly gives City the advantage.
The most dominant attack in the Premier League, with over 88 league goals scored (a whopping 13 more than free-wheeling Liverpool), will exploit Lovren’s weaknesses at every opportunity.
Against Tottenham in late October, Lovren was shown a torrid time by Spurs in perhaps his worst showing all season.
His lack of pace, poor positional awareness, and terrible decision making was all at show in a 4-1 thrashing; Liverpool supporters must hope he avoids a repeat of this performance.
But if there is perhaps a silver lining to be taken from Matip’s absence, it is that Liverpool are the only team to have beaten City in the league all season.
One of the centrebacks that day was Dejan Lovren.
If Liverpool are to muster a Champions League upset against the Citizens, their backline must admirably fill in for the sidelined Matip.