At times this season the criticism of Mo Salah has felt rather harsh. There is no doubt that he is being judged by the exceptionally high – and abnormal, it must be said – standards which he set last season, but still he has offered an extraordinary contribution to Liverpool’s title charge.
Klopp supportive of Salah
Jurgen Klopp was eager to address the topic and offer a timely reminder of the contribution that Salah is bringing which has also included a tally of 17 goals in his pre-match press conference.
Speaking of Salah’s involvement in Liverpool’s late winner against Tottenham last Sunday, Klopp said: “I’m sure it felt like his goal. It’s not important if it counts, just that he was in the decisive position. We wanted him to be in that position.”
The game tough was the eighth in a row that Salah has failed to score in - his longest goal drought in Liverpool colours - but Klopp was keen to praise the rest of the Egyptian’s work.
“This year we don’t rely on Mo’s goals, but he’s still in a very good position in comparison to all the other players", added Klopp.
Seventeen goals is a good number and there are still a lot of games to come.”
Liverpool have manoeuvred themselves into a very good position in both the Premier League and Champions League. Having engineered the situation, now they have got to make it count and the climax of the coming weeks will require Salah to be as buoyant as ever.
Van Dijk fit to start
Klopp was also able to offer an update on the fitness of Virgil van Dijk who left Anfield with ice on his ankle on Sunday. “Virgil has trained normally. It all looks okay,” Klopp said. Van Dijk would have been a sore miss for Liverpool ahead of a run of fixtures in which Liverpool cannot falter.
“He’s so important to us not only as a player but as a person,” the Liverpool coach said. “I couldn’t say a bad word about him about him even if I wanted to,” Klopp joked. “A brilliant boy…but he knows that you need the boys around you – defending is team work.”
If ever there was a moment to sum up the calm, confident and supremely well-judged defending that van Dijk regularly offers, it was when he carefully forced Moussa Sissoko to shoot by blocking the passing channel to the more prolific Heung-min Son and taking the decision from the Spurs midfielder. The thought process was immense.
Saints will be a tough test
With games against Tottenham, Chelsea and a European quarter-final against Porto forming the lion share of Liverpool’s current schedule, this Friday evening fixture is most definitely the least eye-catching of the lot. Yet it will not be easy for the travelling reds and there is no room for error if Liverpool are to keep on within reach of Manchester City.
Southampton are still engaged in a relegation battle, albeit now on the fringes having improved since Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived. Klopp was certainly lavish in his praise for his counterpart and his impact since arriving on the south coast. “They’re confident; they do what they do and do it well.”
Klopp also highlighted that it would be hard to ascertain Southampton’s position in the league table from how they play. They are a much more ‘footballing side’ than the rest of the bottom half and Klopp believed that the games that they have lost in recent months has been more down to bad luck than anything else.
In terms of how Liverpool look to get the win on Friday, Klopp highlighted that: “We have to respect their strength, try to use the things that they are not that strong on – there aren’t a lot but we’ve found a few. We have to put them under pressure and play our football.”