Klopp could now bin Joel Matip by unleashing £70k-p/w brute
Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season after a fifth-place finish last term, and it gives Jurgen Klopp a chance to perhaps blood a few youngsters in the Europa League.
This will allow the German to divert his attention to securing a top-four finish in the Premier League and they have started the 2023/24 campaign brightly, recording four wins and a draw thus far.
It took two late goals to see off Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend however, with a particularly shady first-half performance threatening to cost the Reds all three points.
The defence weren’t quite up to the standards expected during the opening 45 minutes, and Joel Matip could well be replaced ahead of this evening’s tie against LASK.
How did Joel Matip perform vs Wolves?
The defender did look assured on the ball, taking 111 touches while completing 91% of his passes, yet he lost possession 11 times during the tie while winning just one of his three ground duels against the Old Gold.
The Cameroonian was even dribbled past once while making just one tackle during the game and as a result, Klopp could potentially make a change ahead of the European tie.
Indeed, the defender didn’t appear to be at his best, with Reds journalist James Pearce even suggesting that Matip was simply “miles off it” during the opening half.
The German may decide to unleash someone with a bigger physical presence at the heart of his defence and this could mean Ibrahima Konate gets the nod over Matip on Thursday night.
Will Ibrahima Konate start for Liverpool vs LASK?
The £70k-per-week Frenchman was signed two years ago from RB Leipzig and made an instant impression on Klopp, who lavished praise on him after his debut.
He said: “You can see he is incredibly talented. The potential is outstanding. He is used to winning challenges easy. He is young and he played a really good game. Massive. First home game for him.”
The 6 foot 4 brute has made 56 appearances so far for the Anfield side and although last season was disrupted by injury, missing 15 games in total during the campaign, he still impressed when getting a chance in the starting XI.
According to FBref, when compared to positional peers throughout Europe’s top five leagues, Konate ranked in the top 10% for tackles per 90 (2.3), while showcasing his attacking mindset by ranking in best top 9% for successful take-ons per 90 (0.59), indicating that not only was he keen on winning the ball back often, but the defender could also drive forward with it and take players on.
The 24-year-old has started twice this term, averaging a 90% pass success rate along with winning 5.7 total duels – at a success rate of 65% – and making 2.3 tackles per game, clearly demonstrating his defensive abilities while showcasing his physical nature.
This could be vital against LASK tonight and while Klopp will want another victory, he will perhaps be more concerned about how several of his players perform on the night ahead of tougher challenges.
Konate should be unleashed from the beginning, and he could make a big statement of intent with a solid performance against the Austrian outfit.
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