Gary Neville believes that Liverpool ‘owe it’ to Mohamed Salah to still be in the title race when he returns from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Egyptian signed off for the tournament in style on Monday night as he scored twice and laid on an assist to spearhead the Reds’ 4-2 victory over Newcastle at Anfield.
Salah’s goals took him level with Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League’s goal scoring charts, while his assist saw him match Ollie Watkins atop that list.
Jurgen Klopp’s side extended their lead at the league’s summit to three points following the dominant win but they are now set to be without their talisman for key fixtures over the next few weeks.
The 31-year-old could be absent for as many as eight games if the Pharaohs reach the final in the Ivory Coast and Neville reckons the Reds must do all they can to ensure they are still in the hunt when he returns.
Gary Neville believes that Liverpool owe it to Mohamed Salah to still be in the title race when he returns from AFCON
Liverpool’s star man produced a breathtaking performance on Monday night, scoring twice and providing an assist in the Reds’ 4-2 win
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‘A lot of those players have left and they’ve got back to a transitional period like they were at the beginning under Klopp with Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz.’ He said on the Gary Neville podcast.
‘They’re not polished yet. They’re not at the peak of their careers where you start to make precise decisions.
‘There’s an electricity to them but also a frustration that in the final third the last part can go a little bit wrong. You wonder what that’s going to be like without Salah but they owe it to him to get through the next month still in the title, still at the top of the league and still ahead so they can give Salah a chance to come back and have a real go at the title.
‘I didn’t think Liverpool would be in a title race and I still don’t think they’ll do it. The hesitation I have in my voice is due to those three players [Gakpo, Nunez and Diaz] but Klopp is something different as a manager.’
The Liverpool boss will have a decision to make over which of his attacking options will be deployed in Salah’s position on the right-flank.
Sky Sports pundit and former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher pondered the likely candidates and put forward a couple of current midfield alternatives that could fill the void.
‘A lot of Liverpool’s attackers are right footed so they look OK on the left, Jota, Nunez, Gakpo.’ he said on Monday Night Football after the game. ‘But no one looks like they have the right balance for the right.
Jurgen Klopp’s side play Premier League title rivals Arsenal twice at the Emirates in the next five weeks
Jamie Carragher put forward his list of candidates to fill the void that will be left by Salah
‘Harvey Elliott, with that left foot, he comes inside but he’s more of a midfield player, he probably lacks pace to play in the front three but he can do it.
‘And Dominik Szoboszlai. Liverpool have got a lot of midfield options now Alexis Mac Allister is back, although Wataru Endo is [going to the Asia Cup]. Szoboszlai has played there for his former club.
‘But you can’t replace Salah’s goals, that’s very important.’
The Reds take on Arsenal in the FA Cup and the league over the next five weeks, while they also face trips to Bournemouth, two-legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham and a visit from Chelsea.