Sadio Mane and Mo Salah are yet to sign new deals and Jurgen Klopp must decide whether to drop one of his stars for the potential title decision against Man City
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Jürgen Klopp was probably unaware of how quickly his words, spoken prior to the Benfica visit, would return to challenge him.
Asked about his star striker Mohamed Salahs missing goal shot form, the Liverpool The manager hinted that this could be partly due to the debilitating physical and especially mental demands of international duty in Egypt. Without being asked, he voluntarily announced that he would soon have to rest the player he describes as the current best player in the world AND his criminal accomplice sadio mane.
“We also have to manage the physical part,” he said almost predictably. “Obviously those players aren’t going to come to me and ask for a break, so I have to give them the break at a specific time. Hopefully we can take this little break together and move on.”
While the Reds boss turned down the chance to rest either player convincing 3-1 win against Benfica In Lisbon he certainly now faces the return of those words, if not to haunt him then at least to make him wrestle with a huge, huge decision. Sunday’s visit to Manchester City is indeed a title showdown. Lose there and the Premier League race is almost over for sure, giving the champions a four-point lead at the top that they’re unlikely to squander.
His team selection has never been so important. And never before has he had to face the very real prospect of resting Salah or Mane – or even both – in the biggest games. You are his first choice, the automatic choice when it REALLY matters. But in recent days he has more than hinted that both have seen their descent due to the unimaginable pressure being exerted on them by their nations.
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After the win in Portugal, when he eliminated both just an hour into the game, he said the duo had been going through a “tough period” – with a friendly manager saying they’ve lost form. “Both guys came back from Africa and it’s not easy – massive pressure on both shoulders (from their national teams), the managers did their part to put that pressure on,” he said, again without prompting. Now it’s time to calm down. It was an important game for Mo and Sadio tonight. You could score, you couldn’t. But everything will be fine.”
It’s food for thought in Liverpool circles. Even the players themselves will be surprised to hear it. But Klopp has a big decision to make as no player wants to be left out against City with so much at stake. In Lisbon, Luis Diaz played himself as well as he did in Sunday’s starting XI with a performance of such pace and power that Pep Guardiola will have sat up and taken notice.
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Roberto Firmino was rested and his incredible energy over the last half hour showed why he absolutely must face City. His form has been outstanding in recent weeks… and so has the level of Diogo Jota, who has that lucky knack of scoring important goals.
Pick all three and that would leave both Salah and Mane on the bench, a selection unheard of in Klopp’s biggest games of the past five years. Even with Jota making room, the manager may have to choose between his two most iconic stars. However, the Reds boss has one thing: he does not shy away from the biggest decisions, even if doing without one or both could complicate delicate contract negotiations.
What is clear, however, is that the German believes it is only a temporary problem. “It is completely normal that there are ups and downs in a season. It’s been a tough time for both guys, but there’s nothing to worry about here,” Klopp said diplomatically.
But it can’t prevent a sleepless night before he decides on his weekend team.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/mo-salah-liverpool-contract-choice-26649039 Liverpool face Mo Salah conundrum as big decision risks thorny contract talks - David Maddock