After what turned out to be a disastrous trip to Bournemouth last weekend, Liverpool appear set to right the ship this week at home to slumping West Ham as defender Joel Matip is expected to return to the line-up.
The 25 year-old Cameroonian was badly missed in the second half at the Vitality Stadium as the Reds frittered away a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3.
Since joining from Schalke in the summer, Matip has impressed. The statistics bear out the school of thought that he is already one of Jurgen Klopp’s key men as they have only conceded two goals or more once with him in the side as well as being unbeaten in that span.
Liverpool CB Matip stats pic.twitter.com/JEwc1ZmXlU
— fantasyfootballgeek (@fantasyfoot20) November 23, 2016
While the injury to Philippe Coutinho rightfully caused a great deal of nervousness amongst the Anfield faithful, Sunday’s result may have been more down to the less heralded Matip’s absence.
After all, it wasn’t a lack of goals that did them in but rather a chaotic rear-guard performance, most notably from new goalkeeper Lorius Karius.
However, with a relatively easy stretch of games on the slate over the next five weeks Liverpool fans can justifiably hope that this result will prove to be something of an aberration rather than the start of a worrying trend.
After facing off against Slaven Bilic’s men this Sunday, Liverpool’s upcoming opponents are comprised of Middlesbrough (A), Stoke City (H), Everton (A), Man City (H) and Sunderland (A).
While obviously the clash with Manchester City (and no Liverpool fans, sadly Sergio Aguero’s suspension will be over by then) will be tough, the rest of those games each represent very winnable opportunities for Klopp’s unit to keep tabs on league leaders Chelsea until the expected return of their talismanic Brazilian Coutinho around New Years’ day.
Though some may decry the notion of writing off the challenge of Everton in the Merseyside derby as dangerous, Ronald Koeman’s men currently have far greater problems than Liverpool having only recorded one win in their last ten outings in all competitions.
So long as Loris Karius doesn’t make a habit of spilling straightforward shots right into the waiting feet of opposition players, Liverpool’s title challenge should be able to ride the relative storm of having to play without their best player for the next few weeks.
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena
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