The lack of strength in depth in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad will be exposed if Mohamed Salah is not fully fit for Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City, according to Reds goal-scoring great John Aldridge.
Salah, who has scored 38 goals in his debut season for Liverpool, limped out of last Wednesday’s 3-0 first leg win City with a groin problem that kept him out of Saturday’s Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park.
Liverpool’s forward line looked far less potent in the absence of Salah and a rested Roberto Firmino, with Aldridge suggesting Klopp needs his star men back quickly if his side are to have any chance of winning the Champions League.
“Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been too hot to handle for most defences this season, with Manchester City the latest side to surrender to them on a never-to-be-forgotten night at Anfield,” states Aldridge.
“Those three have frightening pace, wonderful movement and, crucially, they have an understanding of how to play together and that comes from time on the pitch and working at it on the training ground.
“Dominic Solanke and Dany Ings have barely started a game all season and they were thrown into Klopp’s line-up against Everton simply because Klopp didn’t have any other options in reserve.
“If Philippe Coutinho was still at the club, the absence of Salah may not have been such a big concern, but now Klopp knows he needs to keep his front three fit to have a chance to compete for the top prizes in the game.
“Without them, Liverpool look half the team they were against City and while I would not point an accusing finger at Solanke and Ings for that, the reality is they are not at the same level as Salah and Firmino.”
Aldridge believes Klopp will retain his three-man attacking formation, even if Salah fails to shake off his injury in time to start at the Etihad Stadium as he suggests Solanke or Ings may be called into action against City.
“Now we wait to see whether Salah will be fit for the second leg and if he is not, Klopp has some big decisions to make with his team selection in his absence,” adds Aldridge.
“If you take out a player who has scored 38 goals in a single season, it will have an effect and Liverpool have to find a way to maintain their attacking fluidity in Salah’s absence.
“It may be that Klopp is forced to start one of Solanke or Ings in the second leg against City, as he will not want to upset the balance of his team by making wholesale changes, but he needs to get it right because this tie could still go either way.
“If City score first in the second leg, it will be game on and Klopp and his player have to ensure they don’t give Pep Guardiola’s men a sniff in this tie now.”