LIVERPOOL: Liverpool came close to missing out on this season’s Champions League but with Mohamed Salah in stunning form and a clean bill of health, Jurgen Klopp’s men look like contenders for the trophy once more. Salah took his tally for the season to 12 goals in just 11 games with a double as the Reds enjoyed a victorious return on Tuesday to the Wanda Metropolitano, where they won the Champions League two years ago.
Liverpool’s thrilling 3-2 victory against Atletico Madrid leaves them on the brink of qualification for the last 16 after just three games. AC Milan and Porto have also been swept aside, with the six-time European champions making a potentially awkward group look easy. Liverpool have also started strongly in the Premier League, sitting just a point behind leaders Chelsea and boasting the only unbeaten record in the English top-flight. Dating back to a late rally to secure their place in the top four last season, the Reds are now 21 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Salah’s return to the form that saw him score 44 goals in an incredible debut season at Anfield in 2017/18 has been the principle cause. The Egyptian has scored memorable solo goals against Manchester City and Watford in recent weeks and even has luck on his side at the minute as another jinking run made space for a shot that was deflected in for the opening goal against Atletico. The only blot on Salah’s season was a missed penalty against AC Milan in the opening group game, his first miss from the spot for Liverpool since 2017. However, he put that behind him with a calm and precise finish with a penalty to win the game in Madrid 12 minutes from time.
That strike made more Liverpool history for Salah as he surpassed Steven Gerrard as the club’s highest scorer in the Champions League, with his two goals taking him to a tally of 31. He is also the first player to score in nine consecutive matches for the club. “He is a hungry player, he’s a hungry striker,” said Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. “He’s showing on the pitch all the time, making really nice goals, not just easy goals.”
Salah’s scintillating form may be delighting his teammates, fans and Klopp, but it comes at the worst time for Liverpool’s money men as they try to tie him down to a new long-term contract. The 29-year-old’s current deal expires in 2023 and he reportedly wants to be paid according to his status as one of the Premier League’s top players.
Klopp has gone further, describing him as the best player in the world on current form. “We don’t have to talk about what (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi did for world football and how they were really dominant,” Klopp said after Salah tore Watford to shreds in a 5-0 win on Saturday. “But in this moment it is clear that there is no one better than him.” There is arguably no better team in the world than Liverpool at the moment either. After an injury crisis ravaged their defense of the Premier League title last season, Klopp’s men are back to their best. – AFP