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Analysis – Joel Matip shines in Liverpool’s win over Cardiff

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It’s not often that someone in Liverpool’s defence has outshone Virgil van Dijk this season, but Joel Matip certainly did that in the win over Cardiff City.

Partnered with Van Dijk in the heart of Liverpool’s defence Matip knew he was in for a physical battle up against the Bluebirds.

That proved to be the case as Neil Warnock’s side looked to take advantage of set pieces to try and find their way past Alisson in the Reds goal.

The Brazilian was able to keep another clean sheet, though, courtesy of the superb display from Matip in front of him. WhoScored handed him a 7.2 rating in the game but the stats show he was worthy of a bigger and better score.

Cardiff City v Liverpool FC - Premier League
CARDIFF, WALES – APRIL 21: Oumar Niasse of Cardiff City. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

No player managed more than Matip’s 98 touches in the game. Jordan Henderson was closest to him with 89 in total.

Likewise, Matip topped the passing charts with 90 in total, 16 more than Henderson in second place. He also had more accurate passes than anyone in the game as well.

He posted seven aerial duels in total, a number only beat by Van Dijk’s 11, and won five of those. Again an area that only Van Dijk beat him in. In fact, Matip won 63% of his aerials, with only Van Dijk ahead of him in those charts as well.

Matip didn’t post any tackles in the game, but while that looks like a negative, it was actually down to his impressive marshalling of Cardiff’s forwards and reading of the game.

He did, however, post two clearances, the second most of any Liverpool player, and two interceptions, the joint most in the game. All in all, it was an impressive performance from Matip. He will be hoping it was enough to convince Jurgen Klopp to leave him in the side for the remainder of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool FC - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 15: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool and team mate Joe Gomez celebrate following the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium on September 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Matip has often failed to impress at Anfield after arriving in the early days of Klopp’s reign. They hoped he would be the ball playing central defender they needed, but he has often looked beneath the standard required for the Reds.

That has certainly been the case since Van Dijk’s arrival. The Dutchman has become one of, if not the best central defender in world football at Liverpool and that has only set the bar higher for the likes of Matip, who has struggled to live up to the quality playing alongside him.

The giant Dutchman is not the only problem for him, though. Before his injury earlier this season Joe Gomez was playing superbly and forming a formidable partnership with Van Dijk at centre back.

The youngster looked more composed, better defensively and was better on the ball that Matip. By all accounts, he and Van Dijk would be Liverpool’s first choice whenever possible.

But with Gomez still coming back from injury Matip has had a chance to impress and has certainly done that in recent weeks. His display against Cardiff was one of his best and will have left his manager with plenty to ponder as the season draws to a close.