Time for Lovren and Matip to prove they can be a title-winning centre-half pairing

Liverpool’s 7-0 win over Maribor in the Champions League in midweek was a statement of intent by Jurgen Klopp’s men and the club’s supporters will hope that it is a launching pad for improved showings this season.

However, the Reds have a big test on Sunday as a trip to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League at Wembley is next up for the Merseyside outfit.

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However, for Klopp’s side to overcome one of their top-four rivals, a stern defensive effort will be needed.

There is little doubt that the Liverpool attack can be one of English football’s most-devastating units when firing and on form, but the club’s Achilles heel has been a soft centre at the back.

The summer pursuit of Southampton centre-half Virgil van Dijk was ultimately unsuccessful and the Reds failed to bring in another defender or activate a Plan B, meaning Klopp has been left with the same personnel in his rearguard.

A partnership of Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip remains the first choice for Liverpool and on paper looks to have the required mix of aggression and finesse to be a winning combination.

However, there is clearly a mentality issue, with neither of the centre-halves providing the required leadership to make the Reds a watertight opponent.

This weekend the pairing will again be tested as they face one of Europe’s in-form centre-forwards in Harry Kane.

The Tottenham attacker has shown this season that he deserves the world-class moniker that is starting to be attached to him, with six Premier League goals so far for the England international.

While most of the travelling Liverpool support will be confident that the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino have the required quality to breach the Spurs rearguard, Liverpool’s own defence does not fill the fans with much confidence.

Signing Van Dijk, or anyone else, in January does not seem likely and as such the Reds will need to make do with Lovren and Matip until the summer.

For the Merseyside outfit to live up to its billing and challenge for major silverware, the side’s defence needs to shake off its ‘soft touch’ label and prove that it can the bedrock for success in 2017-18.

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