Joel Matip is ready to fight for his Liverpool place this season – and believes the Reds are assembling a squad capable of challenging for major honours.
The Cameroon international has returned to action this summer having missed the final weeks of the last campaign with a thigh injury.
In that time, Matip had to watch as Liverpool reached the Champions League final without him, and saw Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk establish themselves as the Reds’ first-choice centre-back pairing.
Lovren’s World Cup exploits, however, will give the 26-year-old a chance to reassert his claims in the coming weeks. The Croatian is not due back with the squad until August 6, and so unlikely to be considered for Liverpool’s opening Premier League game with West Ham just six days later.
Matip, then, will fight Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan for the right to partner Van Dijk – and the former Schalke man is up for the challenge.
“Of course there is competition,” he said, speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup game with Borussia Dortmund in Charlotte later today.
“We had the quality before and now we have a lot of self confidence. But I also have no doubt of my quality!
“And with a team like ours, there are always so many games, so you try to get the chance.”
Matip added: “I’m on a good way, of course. The fitness is not at 100 per cent but I’m not the only player who needs this time. But this is preparation to get a good fitness level, I’m on a good way and feel self-confident. I still need some time.”
A laid-back character generally, Matip admits it was difficult to watch from the sidelines as Liverpool went all the way to Kiev back in May, losing in heartbreaking circumstances to Real Madrid.
“Nobody wants to see games like this from the stand as a player,” he said. “But you still try to fight and to do what you can from the bench or the stand. It is what it is.
“Of course it’s not the best part of being a player if you’re injured and have to look on, but this is part of a player’s life.”
Plenty has changed at Anfield since then, too. The signings of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Alisson Becker, plus the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri, mean Liverpool are, on paper at least, assembling their strongest squad in years.
So does Matip feel confident they can fight for major honours again in the coming years?
“Of course, these are the goals,” he said. “We want to achieve something. We will see how the season starts but we have to be there from the beginning.
“A lot of things are possible if we start the season properly.
“The new players have looked great from the beginning and they will help us. We have a really big and high-quality squad. This will help us through the season because we have a lot of games and injuries belong to the game, so some players will always miss a game.
“But it’s good if another player can come directly in without losing that much quality.”
Liverpool take on Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup in Charlotte on Sunday, kick off 21:05 UK time (16:05 local time)