Mohamed Salah’s poor performance against Watford showed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could potentially be forced to make a difficult decision with the showdown against Manchester City looming
When Liverpool have their sights set firmly on the Premier League title and even an unprecedented quadruple Mohammed Salah Freshness will be their top priority. And therefore Jürgen Klopp will be concerned about what he testified against Watford on Saturday.
The nervous Anfield fans were grateful for an impressive performance by Diogo Jota, who led the line like a classic No.9, capping his performance with a fine header and an assist. That was perhaps a relief for Salah, who had a rare day off at home, and Jota, who led the Merseyside team to victory, masked that.
But it will not have escaped Klopp, who will have been aware of his starman’s absence. Salah has scored 15 goals in his first 17 games this season and has netted just once in his last six league games. He didn’t complete a full 90 minutes in the First League since 23 February, when he scored twice in a 6-0 win against Leeds.
His only real shot on goal was a limp left-foot shot that rolled past the Ben Foster post. Anything he tried, whether it was a slalom between defenders or a back pass, was wiped out. Klopp, perhaps realizing it wasn’t his day – or his week given his disappointment in Egypt – pulled the 29-year-old off midway through the second half.
Salah wore a frustrated look on his face as he headed to the bank – and only he will know if that was down to him or his manager. Some might attribute it to the demands of a modern day footballer, representing his country and playing a key role at club level. And after the game, the German hinted that his decision was linked to keeping his players as fit as possible in the coming weeks.
“It’s tough. There’s a reason it’s so difficult to win a trophy,” said Klopp. “[We will] take it game by game. Take it 100 percent in every game. Hopefully all the guys stay fit and make changes between games. The Premier League is the most important competition.”
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Salah had returned from a grueling journey of international service with Egypt that would have taken a toll on him both physically and mentally. His penalty shoot-out loss against Senegal ultimately contributed to his World Cup loss and would certainly have hurt his confidence.
Few could blame Klopp for throwing him back in the side at the first opportunity to rebuild, especially against a defense as leaky as Watford’s. But the winger, so often a fast-moving and on-the-ball player, looked jaded on the right flank and was seldom so ineffective Liverpool this season.
Like any top footballer, Salah wants to play every minute of every game and score as many goals as possible, and a player with his drive and desire to help his team is unlikely to ever tell the manager he doesn’t want to play. Fitness and injury risk considerations are firmly Klopp’s responsibilities – and only he can decide to give Salah a rest he clearly needs.
It’s not that Liverpool don’t have the attacking options at their disposal. Jota scored his 14th Premier League goal and 20th in all competitions with the opener, while Luis Diaz was left as an unused substitute. Before you consider that Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino both impressed while Salah and Mane were at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
There’s no question that it will be difficult to give Salah a much-needed break from the game. Liverpool have a rare chance to pursue four different trophies and to achieve that would rank Klopp among the best European football has seen before. So benching Salah would be a huge risk if they are serious about shooting for all four trophies.
But after Klopp confirmed the Premier League was his priority after beating Watford, it would make sense to pick Diaz or Mane to face Benfica Champions League. Liverpool see their title showdown with City on April 10 as their most important game of the season – and if they are to topple Guardiola’s men, being fit and firing Salah will be crucial to their chances.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/liverpool-mohamed-salah-klopp-mancity-26619636 Liverpool's concern for Mohamed Salah gives Jurgen Klopp a dilemma ahead of Man City showdown