Jurgen Klopp can’t ignore Ibrahima Konate’s two records as Liverpool’s quest nears end

Of the 10 Liverpool outfield players who started against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday, only one remained from the start at St Mary’s.

And when the bravado and bluster died down surely everyone could understand Jurgen Klopp’s decision to ring the changes, so soon after extra-time and penalties and with so much in store on the horizon.

In many ways Klopp’s selection of Ibrahima Konate – on the pitch for the entirety of that game on Saturday – was his easiest. Virgil van Dijk went off with a minor issue at the weekend, and he was always going to rest Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The latter absence would mean that Joe Gomez would come in at right-back, and so that meant that Konate would have to partner Joel Matip in the centre. Klopp may have namechecked last season’s heroes Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams in an interview published on Tuesday, but Phillips is still technically on loan at Bournemouth and Williams hasn’t kicked a ball for the Reds this season, neither was going to be seen here.

So it was Konate who had to be the marathon man for the marathon men, and once again the young Frenchman delivered.

It says a lot about the 22-year-old’s campaign that no less a Liverpool legend than Jamie Carragher can name Konate’s supposed rival Matip in his own Premier League team of the season, but no Reds supporter bats an eyelid when it is the former RB Leipzig man who is named in the side over the Cameroonian.

Both played here of course, with Matip credited with the crucial winning goal as his header looped into the net, but it was his younger teammate who caught the eye with his defensive work both on the ground and in the air.

Konate got the better of Broja at St Mary's

Konate got the better of Broja at St Mary’s

Konate is quick, but he’s also not afraid to tussle with physical forwards. Armando Broja, only two years Konate’s junior, certainly knew that he was in a game at St Mary’s, with one leap from the defender leaving the Chelsea loanee looking more than a little dizzied. Plenty of others have been similarly groggy this season.

And what a season it has been.

In his maiden campaign in English football and only a second consistently playing at Champions League level, Konate has made 27 appearances for the Reds, and including penalty shootouts he’s been on the winning side in 22 of the them. The other five have been drawn.

The young Frenchman remains unbeaten for the Reds in all competitions, and indeed – as per WhoScored – he hasn’t lost a league match he’s started for three-and-half years, going back all the way to a clash between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in January 2019.

Staggering numbers, but he’s also staggeringly good.

Klopp must decide whether to start Konate in the Champions League final

Klopp must decide whether to start Konate in the Champions League final

Konate’s displays make you realise exactly why Klopp and Liverpool’s transfer team didn’t press the panic button and move for a big name defender when they were all dropping like flies last winter. The manager surely wanted more than he got – Ozan Kabak on loan and the never-seen Ben Davies – but the Konate move would have been in the pipeline then. Liverpool knew what was coming.

The question now is can the man who never loses take his records into the final week?

Liverpool’s epic odyssey is coming to an end, with one more trophy in their grasp and another potentially there with a slip from elsewhere.

They just need to keep winning, and Konate knows all about that.

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