Salah: Time to man up
Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah insists the team must quickly move on from the debilitating loss of fellow forward Sadio Mane for the foreseeable future.
Manager Jurgen Klopp’s plans for tomorrow’s visit of arch-rivals Manchester United were dealt a severe blow after Mane returned from Senegal duty with a hamstring injury which is set to rule him out for six weeks.
Mane has established himself as a key player since his arrival from Southampton in the summer of 2016, scoring 13 league goals last season despite missing January because of the African Nations Cup and his campaign being ended in early April by a knee injury which required surgery.
The pacy forward scored in his first three Premier League matches before his sending-off at Manchester City and the subsequent three-match ban slowed his progress.
But his absence, which will see him miss matches against top-four rivals United, Tottenham and Chelsea, will still be keenly felt at Anfield at the weekend.
Salah, the club’s leading scorer with six goals, said: “I texted him when he was at the national (team) and then when he came back. He told me then he was injured, so that’s bad news for everyone.
“But that’s football and anything can happen. Now we have to focus on the game and keep moving forward.
“It’s a big game on Saturday, everyone in the world will watch the game. It’s a big game for us too because we have to keep fighting and improve our results. I hope we can get the win.
“We always fight in each game, but this game is a big game and can make a difference for us. We have to improve our place in the table. We have to fight and try to win the game.”
In Mane’s absence the obvious move would be to restore Philippe Coutinho to the wide left position he previously occupied before dropping into midfield to accommodate the two fast wingers.
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku has been warned his United career will be defined by games like tomorrow’s showdown with Liverpool. The Belgian striker has made an outstanding start to his United career - scoring 11 goals in 10 games since his £75m move from Everton.
But Gary Neville insists he needs to produce in the biggest games if he is to be considered among Old Trafford’s greatest forwards.
Lukaku scored three times in eight games against Liverpool when at Everton - with two of those goals coming in his very first Merseyside derby.
He has only scored once in his last seven appearances against them.
Neville insists the lunchtime kick off at Anfield will be his first major test at United. He predicts another rearguard display from Jose Mourinho, following last season’s goalless draw in the same fixture.
“Romelu Lukaku has settled in brilliantly and done everything he was asked to do in terms of converting those home draws into wins, but games like this one are the real test,” the United legend said.
“When I look back to the Everton striker’s recent performances at Anfield he didn’t play well, so this is the next step up for him.
“Going away to Anfield is a big test and his service will be more limited so he’s now got to show the ruthless streak to win the big games for United.
“He will be defined by his performances in big matches. You’re at a club with aspirations of winning things and a world class striker will be defined by trophies and performances in big matches.”