Jurgen Klopp made a debatable decision this week as he left Mohamed Salah out of his starting XI. It’s one that sets the player up for a pivotal role, however.
Liverpool face a huge final eight games to their season. All in the Premier League, the Reds may have to win them all.
Champions League qualification is the aim (thankfully) and Liverpool sit two points off fourth with six games left. But it’s tougher than it looks.
There are five teams in this race, with Everton just one point behind Liverpool. It means the eventual winner, as much as fourth-best can be considered a winner, must win more games than anyone else.
And with six games to go, that surely means winning all six. This will all be a bit of a shoot-out, then.
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Teams can’t go into games settling for draws, nor can they run any risk of dropping points by not going for wins. Goals are the way forward for all sides involved.
That’s a problem, though, as Liverpool haven’t scored with any reliability in 2021. In fact, only one player has been anything close to his best in front of goal.
And it seems Jurgen Klopp has him set for a pivotal role.
Klopp’s Salah decision
Klopp made the decision to leave Salah out of his team to face Leeds United on Monday. It was a notable one.
Both Tim Sherwood and Michael Owen were doing punditry for Premier League productions that night. Neither understood Klopp’s decision.
“I am surprised Mo Salah’s not playing, I really am,” said Sherwood. “When you are top-scorer, there is no time to rotate and there are only a few games left to play your best side.”
“I mean [Klopp] wants to get into the top four, no doubt about it,” said Owen. “They are out of everything. This is it. I cannot believe he has rested or rotated his main man.”
Now, our best guess for the choice was ‘rest’. Liverpool had played Real Madrid the previous week and Klopp may have wanted to give Salah a break.
The reason for that would be Klopp wanting Salah to play every game from here on out. After all, he’s now incredibly reliant on the Egyptian.
So as Liverpool tackle these six remaining games, they’ll rely almost entirely on Salah to deliver goals. And they’re goals the Reds need.
They have to win every game, essentially, while they can’t rely on their make-shift defence to keep goals out. A fully-fit and consistent Salah might be the only hope right now.
And Klopp, hopefully, assured that with his decision on Monday.