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Joe Gomez responds to Konate deal as Liverpool selection battle gets serious

Joe Gomez insists he welcomes the extra competition that Ibrahima Konate will bring at Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp ponders who to pick as Virgil van Dijk’s defensive partner.

The Reds suffered badly with injuries in the heart of the defence last season. At one point, the Reds had to play midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho as an emergency centre-half pairing. That’s after Van Dijk, Gomez and Joel Matip all sustained injuries at the same time.

Stand-ins Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams did well in their absence, leading to wholesome praise from Klopp. Indeed, their form in the closing weeks of the season played a crucial part in the Reds recovering to finish third.

However, with talk Phillips could be sold, competition still remains fierce. And with both Van Dijk and Gomez both in contention once again following their recoveries, it looks like being a three-way battle to partner the towering Dutchman in defence.

The biggest battle looks likely to come from Konate. At £36m, he is the only Liverpool signing so far, but already looks a big asset.

Now Gomez admits he welcomes the challenge and hopes it’ll make him improve.

“That’s part and parcel of being at a top club, I think,” he said of the competition for places. “That’s what this club ­deserves and that’s what we all thrive off. ­Competition is good and it’s healthy.

“But we can all learn off one another, I think each of us is different and we’ve got top quality.”

He added: “Ibou’s top. He’s a great player and has adapted straight away to our style of play. He’s got all the attributes to thrive I think.

“Obviously the likes of Rhys and Nat and Ben [Davies] are all top players, and it will be good this ­season. Now it’s just to learn from each other and keep pushing each other, day in and day out.”

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Gomez delighted to be back for Liverpool

Gomez came through more than an hour of a friendly against Osasuna on Monday unscathed.

However, reports suggest Klopp is likely to go with a ­pairing of Van Dijk and Matip for the season opener at ­Norwich on Saturday.

Whoever Klopp selects, Gomez – sidelined with a knee tendon injury since ­November – is just delighted to be back.

Commenting on his lengthy spell on the sidelines, the 24-year-old is clearly a relieved man.

“It was a long road, one that made me really appreciate just being back with the boys and training again.”

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