Mohamed Salah situation at Liverpool is about to change due to Jurgen Klopp plan


While attempting to rank league matches in importance is a hopeless task, there is little doubt that Liverpool’s game with Manchester City on Sunday is their most significant for quite some time. Perhaps their meeting in 2014, which Brendan Rodgers’ side won 3-2, was the Reds’ last Premier League match of such magnitude this late in a season?

It will be incredibly difficult for Liverpool to return home with the three points as they have not done this in a league game at the Etihad since Pep Guardiola took charge of the Citizens. But the Reds could hardly be approaching the match in better form, having only lost once in 2022 – and even then, advancing on aggregate against Inter Milan – while conceding just nine goals in 21 games since the turn of the year.

If Jurgen Klopp has one major concern ahead of the clash with City, it will be with regards to the form of Mohamed Salah. The fact the Egyptian was withdrawn after 61 minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win against Benfica on Tuesday clearly indicates he will be in the starting XI for City, yet he is undergoing an uncharacteristically long barren run in front of goal.

Salah could be forgiven for feeling tired after his heavy exertions already this season. At the time of writing, he’s played the 15th most minutes of any player in world football ( per Transfermarkt ) and the most by an outfield player with a club in one of Europe’s big five leagues.

Klopp has tried to manage this by ensuring Salah has not played more than 69 minutes in any of his last four appearances for Liverpool. But his playing time says nothing of the burden of carrying the hopes of his country in both the Africa Cup of Nations and a World Cup qualification play-off in the last three months, which will have also taken a toll.

Nonetheless, with the Reds holding realistic hopes of a quadruple in 2021/22, it’s not ideal that Salah has gone so long without scoring. It has only been three appearances since he successfully despatched a penalty in a 2-0 victory at Brighton, but if we disregard spot-kicks he hasn’t scored in regular play since the 3-1 win over Norwich City in February. As his Alisson Becker-assisted effort came in the 67th-minute of that match, Liverpool’s number 11 has not scored a non-penalty goal in his last 660 minutes for the club.

He has had similar runs in the past, experiencing 829 goalless minutes in the spring of 2019. Salah ended that stretch with a lead-taking goal in a vital away match ( a Friday night 3-1 win at Southampton three years ago this week ) and finished that campaign strongly. He can do the same at the Etihad this weekend.

Salah has scored seven goals against City for Liverpool, making them his joint-favourite opponent from the Premier League’s big six clubs. Granted, two of his tally came from the penalty spot, but he scored in open play when Liverpool last won in the blue half of Manchester. With the ball running loose after Ederson had challenged Sadio Mane in the Champions League quarter-final match in 2018, Salah was on hand to lift it into the net in front of a delirious traveling Kop.

That opportunity was classified by Opta as a clear-cut chance (one where you would expect the striker to score) and though Salah has not been finding the net recently he has been having plenty of these high-quality openings. Both of his shots against Benfica fell into this category.

In the ninth minute, a clever backheeled pass by Mane put Salah clean through, but goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos was equal to his shot. The Greek stopper then denied the Egypt captain at the end of the first half, after he ran on to to a delightful long ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Since his goal against the Canaries, Salah has had seven non-penalty clear-cut chances, missing them all. As well as the pair in Portugal, he failed to convert excellent opportunities against Leeds United, Chelsea, West Ham United and two in the home match with Inter Milan.

There is no automatic reversion to the mean here. Just because he hasn’t scored any of his last seven great chances doesn’t mean the eighth will find the net. But it is also unusual for such a good forward to consecutively miss so many. Don’t be surprised if Salah ends his drought in style against Man City to wrestle control of the title race in Liverpool’s favour.