Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool v Southampton: Matip not an instant fix to defensive worries, warns Jurgen Klopp

By Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists the return of Joel Matip will not single-handedly be the quick-fix solution to all their problems at the back.

The centre-back has missed the last six weeks because of injury and then uncertainty over his availability in a club versus country row with Cameroon.

After a late substitute appearance in the 3-2 defeat to Swansea and an hour for the Under-23s on Sunday, Matip is set to start against Southampton tonight as Liverpool seek to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

The three goals conceded against Swansea, who were bottom of the league when they arrived at Anfield, led to more questions about their defensive resilience but Klopp stressed Matip cannot cure all their ills.

"It's good because he is a really good player, but he was injured for six weeks," said the Reds boss. "The other players had to play nearly all the time, that's more the problem - not that Joel cannot play all of the time.

"But I understand football in a different way; the final mistake in the game sometimes it's the goalkeeper, sometimes it's the defender, sometimes it's somebody else, but most of the time there are seven or eight players involved - that's the defending I talk about.

"Everybody is responsible for everything and if you avoid this pass then your team-mate cannot make the last mistake. That's how we understand it, so it is not about one player.

"It's clear what we've done wrong and we really have to do better."

Klopp's side have yet to score against Saints in two meetings this season and the Reds boss expects to find Claude Puel's side difficult to break down again.

If Liverpool do not score they will go out but history shows on both occasions they have lost the semi-final first leg 1-0 they have drawn the return fixture and failed to progress to Wembley.

However, despite their slip-up against Swansea, Klopp is confident there is no need to be too concerned about their attacking options.

"Southampton are a football-playing side (but) against us they always defend pretty deep," he said. "That's kind of a sign of respect. But, for us, it changes nothing really.

"It was only a 1-0 and that's no different for us. If we had been down 3-0 we would have to think about a few things but it is only 1-0 and so everything is still possible for us.

"In the good moments this team is still able to play wonderful football and we did it in the Swansea game.

"A few of the best minutes maybe of the season were after we were 2-0 down it was really good.

"That's all we have to do, don't think about why we lost this or that and all that stuff."

Tonight's contest could see Southampton reach their first major final since 2003 and many have questioned if the Saints can handle the rousing atmosphere at one of world football's most iconic stadiums but manager Puel insists his previous experience at Anfield, with Lyon in 2009, will help him equip his squad and prepare Southampton for a game of this magnitude.

"Of course, it is special to play at Liverpool but I think it will be an exciting game," Puel said.

"We are not afraid about this. For me, it is the same. I played one game there. It was a good memory. It was with Lyon (in 2009) we played in the Champions League and we won.

"It is important for all of the players, the squad, to play this game with a positive attitude. It will be a difficult game but with all possibilities.

"If we respect our play and quality, it will be dangerous and not good to just defend and try to preserve this lead, it is not possible.

"We will see the result. We are not the favourites, it is the second leg away against a great team with great players but it is a positive because the pressure is on them not us."

Belfast Telegraph

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