Klopp backs Salah to maintain scoring form

01Jan 2018
The Guardian
Klopp backs Salah to maintain scoring form

LIVERPOOL manager Jurgen Klopp is confident Mohamed Salah can maintain his excellent goalscoring form after the Egyptian forward netted both goals in a 2-1 win over Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their second goal by kicking the ball into the net during their English Premier League match against Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, Britain on Saturday. REUTERS

The 25-year-old, signed from Roma in the summer, has now equalled Roger Hunt’s club record from 1960/61 of having scored 23 goals in all competitions before the turn of the year.

Salah is the second-highest goalscorer in the Premier League this season with 17, one behind Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, and has added another six in the Champions League.

“He can keep this standard, for sure,” Klopp told a news conference. “He’s young, improving. It’s not only about scoring goals; he’s so important for us.

“He knows and I know he couldn’t score so many without the fantastic support from the other boys. I think he can keep the standard, but that’s normal.”

Klopp substituted Salah with seven minutes left against Leicester and said that his top scorer had picked up an injury. Liverpool visit Burnley on New Year’s Day.

“He was limping – that’s never a good sign,” Klopp said. “We’ll see what he can do for the next game.”

Liverpool fell behind to Jamie Vardy’s third-minute opener against Leicester but rallied well and could have won by a far greater margin.

The result moved them on to 41 points and consolidated fourth position in the table.

“Everybody reacted the right way,” Klopp said. “It was one of the best games we’ve played so far (this season). We knew we had to continue in the second half.

“We got annoyed after missing chances but they will come again. Two fantastic goals. They felt so good and fair in this moment. I’m really happy.”

Leicester manager Claude Puel said Salah’s individual quality had been the key to his side’s defeat.

“Salah made the difference this afternoon,” he said. “The second goal was not a chance; he created it himself with his quality. We played a great team, with some fantastic players who can make the difference at any time.”

Leicester have now gone five matches without a win in all competitions but have an opportunity to end that run when they host Huddersfield Town in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.

“I’m frustrated for my squad,” he added. “We need to continue our work, but it is important to concentrate on the game on Monday and forget this game to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s 75 million pound ($101 million) defender Virgil van Dijk needed to watch only the first three minutes of his new club’s match against Leicester City on Saturday to discover the challenge that lies ahead.

Van Dijk, who will officially join Liverpool from Southampton when the transfer window opens this week, barely had a chance to take his seat in the Anfield stand before his team mates gifted Leicester the lead following a trio of mistakes.

They initially made a mess of playing out from the back and when Leicester’s Vicente Iborra beat Emre Can to a loose ball, Liverpool’s defence left a gap wide enough for him to play in the untracked Riyad Mahrez, who in turn squared for Jamie Vardy to scoop the ball into an empty net.

Juergen Klopp’s team recovered admirably and should have won by a far greater margin than 2-1 -- earned by Mohamed Salah’s second-half brace -- but the weakness of their defence was once again a point of discussion.

Fourth-placed Liverpool have now conceded 24 times in 21 Premier League games this season, 12 more than leaders Manchester City, seven more than seventh-placed Burnley and only three fewer than the team at the bottom of the table, West Bromwich Albion.

Van Dijk’s arrival should help, not least because he does not make mistakes such as those that led to Vardy’s goal on Saturday.

According to Opta, the 26-year-old is one of only four central defenders who have played 60 or more Premier League games in the past three seasons without making an error that resulted in a goal.

Statistics also show that he made more tackles and interceptions and had a superior pass accuracy last season than all of Liverpool’s current centrebacks. Hence the resilience and creativity of Klopp’s back line should improve markedly.

Van Dijk’s arrival will also give Klopp a fresh selection option in central defence, where he is rotating Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan.

In contrast, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte both have five centrebacks to pick from, while Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has four and is reportedly chasing a fifth.

Klopp is seemingly so desperate for Van Dijk’s arrival that earlier this week he described the transfer fee -- a world record for a defender -- as “not really interesting”.

He admitted on Saturday that he does not know the length of the Dutchman’s contract.

“My guess is maybe five or six years,” he said.

His only concern appears to be ensuring Vardy is the last opposition player to be given a free hit at Liverpool’s goal. ($1 = 0.7401 pounds)

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