In a surprising start, Joel Matip took center stage as Liverpool hosted West Ham, and Jurgen Klopp lauded his “exceptional performance” in defense.
Klopp implemented eight changes to his starting lineup from the midweek match against LASK, with Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz, and Darwin Nunez being the only retained players. While most of the changes were anticipated, Matip’s inclusion raised some eyebrows, especially with Ibrahima Konate returning from injury.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old was entrusted with a starting role at Anfield and delivered a stellar performance against Michail Antonio.
Matip closely marked the West Ham striker, preventing him from turning and exploiting the space behind Liverpool’s high defensive line—a crucial element in Klopp’s tactical approach.
In his post-match press conference, Klopp acknowledged Matip’s contribution, highlighting how the No. 32 helped prevent potential defensive chaos: “Joel Matip delivered an exceptional performance against Antonio. It was a pivotal moment in the game. Whenever they chipped the ball towards him, we’ve seen in the past how vulnerable we could be. Today, he handled it brilliantly, and we avoided chaos.”
Matip has already made four starts this season, mainly due to Konate’s injury, in what many believe could be his final season with Liverpool. His contract is set to expire next summer, and reports suggest that he may be allowed to leave on a free transfer instead of receiving an extension.
Despite Matip’s occasional relegation to the sidelines in recent years, along with a decrease in fan appreciation, he continues to prove his value to the team. This was evident once again on Sunday, as the Cameroonian defender rose to the challenge posed by a confident Antonio, solidifying his position as a vital contributor to Liverpool’s latest victory.