At the time the Premier League released its fixture for the season, not many thought this would be much of a contest.
One of my favourite adages in football is ‘if he/she’s fit enough for the bench, they should be fit enough to start.’
It’s one that every football fan, diehards and casuals alike, can say in absolute confidence because any rebuttal doesn’t hold up, especially if it’s about one of the best players on the planet.
So the fact that Mo Salah was an unused sub for Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Everton on Monday morning would’ve left Reds fans wondering ‘what could’ve been’ had their side not needed to make necessary changes mid-game due to injuries to James Milner and Joel Matip.
Manager Jurgen Klopp truly fascinates me in his approaches to these high-profile away fixtures. It fascinates me in the sense that he seems obsessed with playing a game of ‘the league table.’
He knows that historically, under a number of different managerial regimes and playing groups, Liverpool as a football club entity have always struggled playing away at Everton and Manchester United. I think if you’d offered him a draw away at Old Trafford and Goodison Park before a ball was kicked this season, he would’ve bared his glistening white teeth in a wide smile and given you a great big hug.
Impending records and titles do not matter to this manager, nor does astounding success playing heavy metal football and a mountainous points gap to the two clubs mentioned above. Like the person with all the hotels and money in a game of Monopoly, Klopp is far too wily a manager to stop playing ‘league table.’
This craftsmanship of the manager doesn’t silence the legions of Reds fans worldwide wanting their Egyptian king on the pitch to swipe away their Merseyside rivals, however. Who could blame them for not wanting to relive even a semblance of the party of the 5-2 victory at Anfield in early December?
In Jurgen’s next move in ‘league table’, his side welcomes Crystal Palace to Anfield on Thursday morning, and you bet he’s going to want to put Salah on Tennessee Avenue.
Also, it looks like Liverpool will have left back Andy Robertson return. Not only will the two add supreme quality, but having two darting left-footers back in the side will add that much-needed dynamism in the attacking third Liverpool were lacking in the derby.
Klopp spoke of ‘not forcing rhythm’ after Monday morning’s game. I don’t think you’d need to dissect too deeply to come to the conclusion that adding two nailed-on starters in not only Liverpool’s XI, but a current World XI could fix the rhythm issue.
Out of all the games of the resumption of the Premier League thus far, the derby was the most affected by the lack of crowd and atmosphere. We’ve seen Man City turn on the style in their opening two fixtures, making light work of Arsenal and Burnley.
It’s ime for the champions-elect to show their muscle again, and there’s no better man than their talismanic number 11 to reignite the party Reds fans have been lucky enough to be invited to in season 2019-20.