Liverpool face Burnley tonight in a huge Premier League fixture for the Reds. They may get some extra comfort from Diogo Jota, too.
Liverpool likely have to win both their remaining Premier League fixtures to qualify for the Champions League. That starts with Burnley this evening.
A win would move the Reds into fourth, just ahead of Leicester City on goal difference. They could then effectively secure a top-four finish by beating Crystal Palace on Sunday – providing Leicester don’t smash Tottenham Hotspur by four.
The pressure is on, then, and particularly on the forwards. Liverpool need to win, after all, and that will take goals. Likely more than one, too, given the issues in defence.
But Jurgen Klopp has a problem there. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will almost certainly start this game, much as they did on Sunday. That’s two games in four days – a big ask.
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In fact, Salah and Firmino both started the game against Manchester United last Thursday. They’ll surely be tired, even with their incredible fitness levels.
But Klopp has little choice here. He’s got to play his best forwards and hope they can put Burnley away and push Liverpool into the top four.
Fortunately, thought, he may receive a little boost that makes things easier.
Burnley vs Liverpool
The reason Klopp has little room to manoeuvre is Diogo Jota’s injury. It ruled him out of the West Brom game and keeps him out of this one, too.
But Klopp believes there’s a chance Jota returns for Sunday’s game against Palace.
“Diogo, when the swelling went down, we did another picture and it looked better than in the first place with the first scan,” said Klopp, per Liverpoolfc.com. “With the CT [scan] you could see it better.
“So, there is a tiny, tiny little chance for him for the weekend, but it depends how it improves now. We have to see that.”
That means Klopp can gamble a little tonight. With Jota out for the season, there will be an urge to rest one or two of the forwards for Palace. That urge could kick in quite quickly, in fact – possibly even with the starting XI.
But the boss might have Jota back. That offers him some comfort that maybe he can take a chance on the £41m man returning for Sunday. That extra firepower could allow him to leave one of his star forwards on a little longer.
Is it definitely a game-changing difference? Of course not. But in such a tight race, a fine margin like this may end up making the difference.