Liverpool’s summer signing Joel Matip will arguably face his biggest test at his new club when he lines up opposite Chelsea’s Diego Costa tonight, but the Cameroonian sees no reason to fear the Spanish forward.
Joel Matip looks to be settling in to life at Liverpool over the past few weeks since his debut at Championship side Burton Albion. The defender turned in some impressive performances at Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City last week to be the Reds focal point in defence as they look to keep a Chelsea attack led by the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa at bay.
Costa has shown an immense hunger for goals that has seen him shoot up to top spot in the scoring charts with four strikes to his name. However, the striker’s brilliant performances have been marred by his disciplinary issues and Matip will definitely have his task cut out when he lines up opposite the Spanish forward on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp hailed Costa as a ‘warrior’ and earmarked him as a veritable threat for his side during their Premier League showdown at Stamford Bridge. Matip, who is generally soft-spoken, says he’s no rookie at dealing with players of Costa’s quality and temperament. Speaking to Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph, he said,”If an opponent tries to talk to me during the game, really, I don’t give a f—-,” he says. “They can say what they want.”
“I don’t think anyone is like Costa. You can play against players who like to make you uncomfortable, but not too many with his size or as famous as him.”
“But I don’t prepare only for Costa. I prepare for the whole team. Maybe he will be my direct adversary and I will study to see how he moves. I have seen a lot of his games. But you can never prepare for one player out of 11.”
During his time with Schalke, the defender had been tasked with dealing with a plethora of world-class attackers of the pedigree of Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema etc.
However, Costa on Friday will pose a different challenge to Matip, and will issue his temperament its true test of character as the Spaniard is often known to get into the minds of defenders. But the 25-year-old pulled out his Bundesliga record to show he’s not one to lose his cool that easily.
The centre-back in 258 appearances for Schalke 04, earned just one red card and a measly 28 yellow cards to show for his ice-cool demeanour. Therefore, it’ll take Costa some rattling to affect the psyche of Matip in what promises to be an interesting match-up at Stamford Bridge.
Matip to skip African Cup Of Nations to focus on Liverpool
The defender who was initially slated to miss a minimum of five games for the Reds while turning up for Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations in January has hinted at staying back instead in-order to focus on his Liverpool career. That said, the defender hasn’t featured for his national side in over a year having fallen out of favour with head coach Hugo Broos.
The last of his 27 appearances for Cameroon came against Gambia last year. However the centre-back has ruled out his participation even if his services were called upon citing fears of suffering injuries. He said,”Last year I had injury problems. The extra games and travelling were going to make it harder for me. I had to listen to my body and it told me that the international week was the right time to have a break.”
“I spoke with the Cameroon manager and he was not happy, but I have to do what is right to be 100% and make sure I am not injured again, especially at an important time in my career starting at Liverpool.”
Jurgen Klopp and Reds’ supporters will be delighted to have Matip in their midst during a crucial run of fixtures in January when they will be missing the services of Sadio Mane who will be featuring for Senegal at the continental spectacle.