Joel Matip had to settle for a spot on the bench as Liverpool took charge of their Champions League semi-final with a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the first leg
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Rio Ferdinand claims Joel Matip should be up in arms after Jurgen Klopp chose to drop him for the first Champions League semi-final leg between Liverpool and Villarreal.
The Reds will take a 2-0 aggregate lead into next week’s encounter in Spain thanks to an own-goal from Pervis Estupinan early in the second half and a Sadio Mane strike moments later. However, it was a somewhat frustrating night for Matip on an individual level as he was an unused substitute for the atmospheric European night at Anfield.
While the Cameroonian, 30, started Liverpool’s first five group-stage games and remains the first choice for partner Virgil van Dijk in the Premier League, he has shared minutes with Ibrahima Konate in recent Champions League fixtures. And Ferdinand believes the towering center-back had grounds to feel aggrieved at being left out of the blockbuster fixture against Villarreal.
“If I am Joel Matip, I am fuming,” the Manchester United legend told BT Sport after the team sheets were unveiled ahead of the kick-off. “He has been exceptional all season and we talk about being the best defenders on form in the league, they would be in there for a shout after Van Dijk.”
Although he questioned why Matip was left out of the line-up, Ferdinand suspects Klopp chose Konate in his place as the Frenchman poses the bigger threat from set pieces. The former RB Leipzig star – who joined Liverpool in a £ 35million transfer last summer – scored in both quarter-final legs against Benfica as well as the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
“So yeah, set-pieces must be a big thing for his team selection tonight,” Ferdinand said of Klopp’s team selection. “I think the most impressive thing for me is the way [Klopp] has been able to utilis his squad.
Who should partner Virgil van Dijk at the back: Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konate? Have your say in the comments!
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“Just shuffling the back at any given time, and those players are coming in and impacting the team. They are playing big roles in that, Konate is a good example for that, they have come in and scored goal after goal, and as a manager it is a dream scenario at the business end of the season. “
Ferdinand’s comments on the set-piece threat posed by Konate were echoed by co-pundit Michael Owen, who added: “It’s a Champions League semi-final, so of course you are going to play your best team, but I think Matip all season has been number one all season. But I think the goals that Konate has scored in the past few games, he does add something different. “