Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp could use all the help they can get in the race for the top four, and they might be about to get it from an unexpected source
In recent years, Liverpool hasn’t had much fun with former Everton managers.
While Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti were frequently seen staring blankly from the touchline during Merseyside derbies, they were able to inflict plenty of pain and frustration on Jürgen Klopp while in charge of Fulham and Real Madrid, respectively.
Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has also been reluctant to assist, but Roberto Martnez may be about to change that. The Portuguese national team’s new head coach has Diogo Jota under his tutelage this week, and the hope is that he can find some form and confidence against Luxembourg in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday.
Cody Gakpo’s absence from Koeman’s squad isn’t as serious as first feared, but the virus will hamper his ability to train and could jeopardize his starting spot against Manchester City. Darwin Nez has also withdrawn from international duty due to an ankle injury suffered against Real Madrid, with no indication of when he will be available.
Luis Daz is set to return, but after two consecutive injuries, Liverpool will most likely limit his playing time. Klopp could start well-rested Roberto Firmino alongside Mohamed Salah, but he would prefer to have a confident Jota to throw into the mix.
Liverpool’s number 20 has had a forgettable 22/23 season, but he was one of the Premier League’s most electrifying and influential forwards just a year ago. Ten of his 21 goals in all competitions in 2021/22 were game-openers. Given that Liverpool has won 10 out of 10 league games when doing so this season, Jota resuming his role as the icebreaker could be crucial in the race for the title.
Martnez will, of course, have his own priorities, but in his brief tenure, he has appeared sympathetic to his charges’ individual desires. Portugal’s 4-0 win over Liechtenstein could have been accomplished without Cristiano Ronaldo. Allowing him to break three more records, on the other hand, eliminated the possibility of the kind of discord sowed at the World Cup by a sulking superstar.
Of course, restoring Jota’s form benefits both Martnez and Klopp. A new manager will typically want to see as many members of his squad as possible in the early stages, and given that Jota was an unused substitute on Thursday, there’s a good chance he’ll start against Luxembourg.
Faced with a team ranked 92nd in the world, Jota will undoubtedly have more chances than his Liverpool counterparts, and the hope is that once the goal drought is broken, it will be followed by a flood. Excellent news for Martinez and Klopp, but bad news for Manchester City, as well as possibly Tottenham, Newcastle, and Brighton.