Mark Lawrenson Backs Joel Matip for Starting Role in Champions League Final Against Spurs

​Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson has hailed Reds centre-back Joel Matip, insisting that the former Schalke man defender must start the Champions League final against Spurs in Madrid.

Matip has become a key player for Jurgen Klopp, despite starting the season as fourth choice behind Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez. 

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Matip managed just 95 minutes in Liverpool’s first 14 Premier League games, but injuries to Lovren and Gomez opened the door to the Cameroonian – who has impressed alongside Van Dijk in the second half of the season.

Former Reds defender Lawrenson has identified Matip as crucial to Liverpool’s brilliant form, telling the club’s website: “He has been a bonus because he has been coming out with the ball and committing opposition midfield players.

“If you’re a midfield player in that team, you’re looking at that and thinking it’s great because he’s giving you a little bit more room to play.”

Liverpool’s backline has been a major strength this season, keeping 21 clean sheets in the ​Premier League and conceding just 22 goals.

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Van Dijk has taken many of the plaudits and won the PFA Player of the Year award, while £66.8m summer signing Alisson won the Golden Glove award.

Joe Gomez impressed alongside Van Dijk at the start of the season and is finally available again, but Lawrenson insisted Klopp must stick with Matip when the Reds face off against Mauricio Pochettino’s ​Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano.

“It would be tough on Matip [to not start the final]. He has been really, really good – and not just defensively. I think it’ll be Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk [in the final], I can’t see any other combination.”

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While Matip looks set to start in Madrid, he may have a battle on to keep his place next season. Gomez will push for a starting spot next to Van Dijk if he can keep fit, while ​Liverpool have also been linked with a move for Ajax captain ​Matthijs de Ligt.

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