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EXCLUSIVE Jurgen Klopp should consider the 'Paul McGrath approach' to solve Matip problem


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Liverpool's Joel Matip (left) and Burnley's Ashley Barnes battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Anfield,  PA Photo

Liverpool's Joel Matip (left) and Burnley's Ashley Barnes battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Anfield, PA Photo

Paul McGrath often played for Ireland and his club when not fully fit. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Paul McGrath often played for Ireland and his club when not fully fit. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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Liverpool's Joel Matip (left) and Burnley's Ashley Barnes battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Anfield, PA Photo

LIVERPOOL manager Jurgen Klopp needs to take a page out of Jack Charlton's rule book as he looks to plot a way out of the huge hole his side have fallen into.

The Reds take on Tottenham tonight and then face West Ham on Sunday and if there is any way of getting defender Joel Matip on the field for both of those games, Klopp has to take it.

As we saw in last Sunday's FA Cup defeat against Manchester United, it is unfair to throw a teenager like Rhys Williams into the heat of a massive game like that and expect him to see off opponents like Marcus Rashford. United targeted Williams on Sunday and they got their reward but I would not criticise the young lad, as he is not ready to play at this level of the game yet.

Klopp should not be in a position where is playing midfielders in defence or trying to dip into the academy to solve his problems and he should have been allowed to sign a defender this month, but that isn't going to happen now.

So it is a question of getting Matip involved in as many games as possible and while it seems like he can't play two games in a row without getting injured, Liverpool need to consider cutting down his training schedule to try and get him fit for matches.

Back in my day as a player, injuries were treated differently than they are now, as we didn't have a vast team of medical experts analysing every part of our body to try and find something wrong. I played in numerous matches when I was less than fully fit and I'm sure nowadays, there would be medical experts telling me it was too dangerous to play.

The best example of this approach came with Paul McGrath, who didn't do too much training during the week and got himself as ready as possible to play at the weekend.

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Paul McGrath often played for Ireland and his club when not fully fit. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Paul McGrath often played for Ireland and his club when not fully fit. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Paul McGrath often played for Ireland and his club when not fully fit. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Paul was the best defender I had the privilege to play with and could get himself through games with his talent.

While I'm not suggesting Matip is on Paul's level, having an 80pc fit defender in that position has to be better than putting Jordan Henderson or Fabinho in defence, as Klopp needs those two giants at the heart of his midfield.

There are suggestions that Matip may be fit to play tonight, but we can assume that means he probably won't play at West Ham on Sunday, as he rarely plays two games in quick succession.

Winning these two tough away games in London without a genuine centre-back in the side may be impossible, so Liverpool need to consider wrapping Matip in cotton wool in training and hoping he can get through games.

He is seriously injury-prone and he could get injured as easily in training as in a match, so Klopp has to try and get him out on the field alongside Fabinho and hope it's enough to get something out of this season.

As I wrote in my Herald columns in November and December, it was blatantly clear that Liverpool would run into trouble unless Klopp was allowed to sign a defender in this month's transfer window.

With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out for the long-term, Klopp was never going to get through the season successfully without some additions to his squad, but the scale of their demise has shocked me.

I really didn't believe this great Liverpool team would fall off the cliff edge in the way they have done over the last few weeks, as the champions have been battered into submission.

What a difference a month can make. When Roberto Firmino headed Liverpool's late winner against Tottenham at Anfield 43 days ago, it felt like a significant victory.

Klopp's men moved three points clear at the top that night and the chasing pack were left wondering whether they could be stopped.

Then everything changed in dramatic fashion in the month that followed.

Defeats against Southampton and Burnley, coupled with draws against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle, mean that the Premier League title is now gone.

Manchester City are on a roll and I don't see anyone stopping them now, with Liverpool and their manager left to rue the misfortune that has gone against them this season.

Injuries afflict every team, but it is hard to absorb the problems Liverpool have had in defence and it means he might have to abandon some of the modern rules and find a way to get through to the end of the season.

Tottenham will test Liverpool to the full this evening. They have a strike force in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min that would tax the best of defences.

Those two will fancy their chances of having some joy against a defence that has been creaking in recent weeks, but I firmly believe this team of Liverpool champions are too good to lie down for long.

One big victory could lift the cloud that has descended on Liverpool and Klopp will be hoping tonight is the night when it arrives.

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