Jurgen Klopp calls on Mohamed Salah to fire Liverpool into Champions League second round against Napoli
LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has called on Mohamed Salah to maintain his current fine form and fire Liverpool into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
By his own high standards the Egyptian ace had a slow start to the season. Coming off the back of his record-breaking campaign last time around — when he scored 44 goals for the Merseyside club in all competitions — Salah had been quiet in comparison, scoring seven times in the Premier League up until Saturday’s 4-0 win at Bournemouth.
But a brilliant hat-trick against the Cherries kicked into touch any worries that he would struggle to hit the same heights again, and Klopp is only too aware his return to form comes at the perfect time with Liverpool who must beat Napoli tonight to make the Champions League knockout stages.
The Reds cannot afford defeat against the Italians, and know that even a 2-1 win could see them eliminated.
The Liverpool manager said that he was never worried the Egyptian would struggle to find the form of last season and has called on Salah to find his scoring boots once again to help ensure his side see off the Italians.
“I’m interested in the moment, but I never judge it because the moment is just a little part of all what we do,” Klopp said. “So I was not for one second worried.
“If you score 10 goals in the first five games, everyone would say: ‘It will happen again.’ But if you score 39 (in a season), it would be: ‘Yeah, but it’s not 41.’
“What Mo did (against Bournemouth) was just exceptional. I don’t know at the moment a lot of players who would have scored these goals.”
The hat-trick against Bourne-mouth took Salah’s tally to 10 Premier League strikes this season as he also became the fastest Liverpool player to reach 40 goals in the competition after he reached the milestone in his 52nd match.
The Merseyside club, who were beaten by Real Madrid in the final last season, could do with another Salah masterclass — they need either a 1-0 victory or to win by two clear goals to progress to the last 16.
“We have the chance with a specific result still to go through when this Champions League campaign so far was not really ours,” Klopp said.
“We have to be on our toes — it’s a big one, our people know that and I know they are already warming up.”
Liverpool’s Champions League campaign has never really got going this season. An impressive 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the first match promised much better than to be going into the final clash knowing that even victory may not be enough. Defeats away at Napoli (1-0) and, surprisingly, Red Star Belgrade (2-0) dented any hope of quick qualification from one of the tougher groups.
A 2-1 defeat to PSG in the French capital last time out has left the group and Liverpool’s participation in the second round on a knife edge.
“We were not good at Napoli, so first of all we would like to show we are better than that,” said Klopp. “So we also have to call again on Anfield, and they should help us because that is a massive game, a really massive game.
“Last year we did nearly everything to get qualified for that tournament again, because we had the final in the background but we also knew we had to do the job in the league.”
But with Salah scoring and playing the clash at home, Klopp is hopeful Liverpool can get the result needed. “They know as well it will be tough, but they are strong and we need to be very strong,” the German said.