Salah and the defence in firing line

THE collapse of Liverpool’s Premier League title charge has left a bad taste in many supporters’ mouths.

Even though the Reds were not favourites to win the league as predicted by many pundits at the start of the season, they made it looked possible until earlier in April when the unravelling started.Virgil van Dijk in action. — ReutersVirgil van Dijk in action. — Reuters

And it is the manner in which the Merseyside club went out of the race that got many supporters disappointed.

No one, not even Jurgen Klopp himself, knows why and how his team performed as badly as they did in recent matches.

In the 2-2 draw against West Ham United last week, Liverpool played much better than they did against Everton but were again let down by defensive mistakes.

Against Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield this weekend (Sunday), Klopp will be relying on the power of the home crowd to galvanise his team.

After all, the Reds do still remember and would want to make a point to avenge the unjust 2-1 defeat to the North London side earlier this season.

Klopp will need to rally his team and hope that everyone can give their best, especially in the final three matches of the season.

One player the German would hope to see back to his best is Mohamed Salah, with whom he had a touchline spat during the match at London Stadium.

While the real reason for the spat remains unknown, it should be believed that both have buried the hatchet behind closed doors, given their relationship and the history they have both created for the club.

Salah has not been his reliable and goalscoring self since his return from a second injury spell, with only two goals in the last eight league matches.

While his goal output may have diminished, his mere presence on the field could still put Tottenham players on high alert.

Salah has scored a total of 11 goals against Spurs in all competitions while playing for Liverpool, which is the second most goals he has scored against a club.

The Egyptian will be expected to start against Spurs, alongside Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz.

Meanwhile, Gakpo has in recent matches shown real grit and determination, working hard for the team while Diaz continues to threaten the opposition with his dribbles, even though his goal contribution could be better.

The Colombian only has one assist, against West Ham, in four matches.

In midfield, Alexis Mac Allister should continue to start, with Ryan Gravenberch also expected to be in the starting 11 following a good performance last week.

The third spot in midfield could go to either Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Dominik Szoboszlai or Wataru Endo.

In defence, Ibrahima Konate will be expected to start alongside Virgil van Dijk, having sat out last week, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Alisson Becker complete the line-up.

As for fifth-placed Tottenham, they may be at a slight disadvantage, having lost 2-0 to Chelsea in midweek. Ange Postecoglou has been let down again by his players, especially his attackers who were unable to put away chances that were created.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma, Brennan Johnson, James Maddison and Son Heung-min are expected to start, with Richarlison as the sole striker upfront.

Spurs have only kept six clean sheets and have conceded 54 goals in the league.

Tottenham are quite similar to the Reds when it comes to dominating possession and they too are quite porous at the back.

In the past seven meetings between the sides, there has not been a clean sheet kept, so goals will be expected.

Spurs are still hopeful of overtaking Aston Villa for that last berth to qualify for the Uefa Champions League next season, so they will be expected to take an offensive approach to take advantage of Liverpool’s recent defensive frailties.

Liverpool have already qualified for next season’s Champions League and there is a concern that the team could continue to play with the gas pedal off.

Klopp will really need to ensure that his team can end the season with a top three finish and not limp towards the finishing line and end up in fourth place.

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