Joe Gomez has hailed his new centre-back partner Joel Matip as “world class,” with the 23-year-old looking forward to forming a strong bond with Liverpool’s No. 32.
On Sunday at the Etihad, Jurgen Klopp fielded the 37th centre-back pairing of his time on Merseyside, and strangely that comprised of his third and fourth most-used options.
Only Dejan Lovren (141) and Virgil van Dijk (130) have featured more times for the German than Matip and Gomez (both 114), but injuries and competition for places ensured they had never previously started together.
With Van Dijk sidelined for the rest of the season and Fabinho best-used in midfield upon his return, Klopp will be hoping for a solid run with his new starting centre-backs.
Speaking to LFCTV, Gomez certainly seemed happy with the prospect of playing alongside Matip, who he labelled “world class.”
“Joel, everyone knows how good he is. For me, he’s world class,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve got a miss in Virgil, but I enjoy playing with Joel and we’ve just got to keep pushing and keep getting points together as a collective.”
The presence Matip provides at the back is hugely underrated, largely due to his prolonged spells on the treatment table, and when fit it is difficult to argue with Gomez’s assessment.
While both Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams filled in admirably alongside Gomez in recent games, there is no denying that Matip is the most accomplished and suitable option for the big fixtures ahead.
The key caveat, of course, is whether he can stay fit for an extended period, but the positive as Liverpool head into the international break is that, having retired from Cameroon duty, he can rest and prepare for the visit of Leicester.
Gomez, meanwhile, is part of an England squad who will play three times in seven days, and as he continued in his interview with LFCTV, the importance of “coming back healthy” was laid out.
“It’s not an easy place to come, and we have to accept that we had our chances and so did they,” he said of the 1-1 draw at Man City.
“So I think a point is a fair reflection.
“We go into the international break now and hopefully we’ll come back healthy and ready to go.”
Gomez has clocked the third-most minutes of any Liverpool player this season, with 939, and as Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s calf injury at the Etihad proved, this season’s relentless schedule can take its toll on the muscles.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that Gomez returns fit, as he and Matip can build a formidable partnership in Van Dijk’s absence.