August 17, 2018 / 2:54 PM / 3 months ago

RPT-Soccer-Matip fitness boost for Liverpool ahead of Palace trip

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Aug 17 (Reuters) - Liverpool defender Joel Matip is close to full fitness and could return to the squad for Monday’s Premier League game at Crystal Palace, manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.

Matip has not played for Liverpool since suffering a hip injury against Borussia Dortmund during the Merseyside club’s pre-season tour of the United States last month. He has since returned to full training.

“Joel is close to being back. Hopefully he is able to be in the squad on Monday, so then we will have him,” Klopp told a news conference.

Liverpool, who are without the injured Dejan Lovren (pelvis) and Ragnar Klavan (hamstring), fielded Joe Gomez as Virgil van Dijk’s central defensive partner in last weekend’s 4-0 victory over West Ham United.

Klopp said Gomez had impressed him and would continue playing in that position against Palace.

“I was never in doubt about Joe and his ability to play at centre half, but he needed time after a long injury... now he is fit, which is very good,” the German added.

“He is a very good football player and played the position good. Together with Virgil, they have a very good understanding on a personal level as well and that’s really cool.”

Klopp said last season’s Champions League finalists had to continue to develop with the aim of becoming the best team in the world.

“People still aren’t used to good football from us so when we are good they say, ‘you’re unbelievably good’ but we haven’t gotten anything for it so far. We need to stay positive but we also have to learn to stay angry,” he said.

“We have to develop. We are not the best team in the world so we have the space to improve in all the different departments and that is what we try to do.” (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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