Travelling down to London for the second leg of a League Cup semi final knowing that the expectation is for you to step into the void left by Mohamed Salah and help Liverpool into the Wembley showpiece is something that Diogo Jota has experienced before.

This time two years ago Liverpool went to the Emirates Stadium with the semi final in the balance after a goalless first leg at Anfield.

Salah, along with Sadio Mane, was away on Africa Cup of Nations duty and so the focus was on Jota to lead Liverpool’s attack away at Arsenal.

The Portuguese forward did not disappoint. His two goals — one early, one late — tipped the balance of the tie and took Jurgen Klopp’s team to the final where they defeated Chelsea on penalties to claim a ninth League Cup.

Jota, and Liverpool, will again journey down to the capital on Wednesday. This time they possess a slender 2-1 advantage as they go to Fulham following the first leg two weeks ago.

Now, as then, Jota is showing he’s adept at filling the goalscoring gap left by Salah. His two goals — along with an assist — in Sunday’s 4-0 Premier League win away to Bournemouth demonstrated as much.

Getty: Mike Hewitt
Getty: Mike Hewitt

Despite missing a month of action through injury, Jota has come back strongly and either scored or assisted six goals in his last five appearances. The 27-year-old’s goal tally for the season is now 11 in 21 appearances, and his clinical finishing has led Jamie Carragher to claim that he is Liverpool’s best finisher in the Premier League era.

I think of some of the strikers I’ve played alongside: Michael Owen, Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Robbie Fowler. I think he [Jota] is the best finisher,” Carragher said after watching Jota score his brace at Bournemouth.

Placing Jota above those names is certainly high praise, but the way he takes his goals — often firing low and with plenty of power — highlights a player who knows how to execute in tight spaces.

Jota boasts the best shot conversion rate among Klopp’s attacking quintet in the league so far this season, and he has the third-best minutes per goal involvement across the league with 84, behind only Erling Haaland (72) and Salah (79).

It is now 52 goals in 131 appearances since Jota’s £45m move from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2020 and there is no denying his prowess as a penalty-box poacher.

'Angry Jota wants to run against the world'

However, there is more to the Portuguese international’s game than just goals and assists. Jota is often the catalyst in Liverpool’s attacks and his dexterity enables him to knit play in the final third.

Jota is a player who when he’s in this angry mood, when he’s in this mood where he wants to run against the world, where he wants to decide, he can do things which are incredible,” said Pep Ljinders, Liverpool’s assistant manager. “We have to get him in that mood as often as possible.

With Salah now ruled out for three to four weeks with a hamstring injury, there is even more need for Jota to continue stepping up.

His ability to play across the forward line offers Klopp options, but he will likely start on the right flank against Fulham with Luis Diaz on the left and Darwin Nunez through the middle.

Getty: Andy Powell
Getty: Andy Powell

As Jota continues to shine, it must also be noted that Nunez’s form is on the up. The Uruguayan appears to be smoothing out his rough edges in the final third too; two assists in the semi-final first leg followed by two goals against Bournemouth suggests as much.

His tally of ten goals so far this term is a decent return — particularly when factoring in his 12-game barren run that stretched almost two months — and he is the only Premier League player to have registered that many goals along with ten assists this season.

Like Jota, Nunez is in Klopp’s team for more than just goals. Whereas Jota’s ability to operate in tight spaces amongst a packed defence is prized, so is Nunez’s penchant for marauding runs and conjuring edge-of-your-seat action from seemingly low-key origins.

When paired together, Jota and Nunez make a difficult duo to handle, and contain many of the virtues Klopp would want to see in his forward line.

And so two years on from emerging victorious from a League Cup semi-final without Salah, Liverpool look well set to replicate their away-day triumph this week. Jota, for one, will be sensing an opportunity of deja vu.