Liverpool had a tough time of it in their Champions League Last 16 game against Internazionale at the San Siro. Despite coming away with a 2-0 victory – and almost certain passage to the quarter-finals – the Italians made it difficult for the Premier League side. Inter held Liverpool at bay for 75 minutes before Roberto Firmino broke the deadlock. Mo Salah added a second late on to seal the win. Liverpool will host Inter in the return leg at Anfield on 8th March.
However, despite the win, Jurgen Klopp will be aggrieved to have seen Diogo Jota taken off at half-time. The Portuguese striker took a knock to the ankle in the first half but could not shake it. Early reports from Liverpool say Jota sustained damage around the ligaments. It’s not known how serious it is, but it could rule him out for a crucial period in Liverpool’s season. Klopp seemed worried post-match, pointing out that the ankle became swollen at half-time.
Firmino came to the rescue
The Reds, of course, have a strong squad. Firmino, who came on for Jota at half-time, is an able deputy, and there is tactical flexibility offered by fellow forwards Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. Divock Origi can also fill an as a striker. But Jota offers something different to the rest of the Liverpool forward line. There’s a reason why Klopp pursued him and subtly changed Liverpool’s style of play to accommodate the Portuguese striker.
Of course, his team-mate, Mo Salah, is taking most of the headlines this season, and seeing him crowned the PFA Player of the Year is probably the surest football bet you will see all season. The Egyptian has 16 goals and 9 assists so far, putting him in pole position for the Golden Boot. A lot of fans think he should be in the reckoning for the Ballon d’Or too.
And yet, as we said, Jota offers something different. Salah is a creator – an instigator of attacks – whereas Jota is an endpoint. His aerial prowess is a powerful weapon for Liverpool, and it means the forward line is better placed to profit from the crosses of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool are in the hunt for silverware
While Man City are miles ahead in the race for the Premier League title and are odds on to retain the crown, it is not as if Liverpool are fighting for nothing this season. They are in the EFL Cup Final at Wembley next weekend. They are also second-favourites for the Champions League, with their odds being cut significantly after that 2-0 win in Milan. It is the latter competition where Liverpool will need the likes of Jota as a difference-maker in attack.
We should also point out that Jota is a key player for Portugal, who will be in the UEFA Playoffs in March for World Cup 2022. Portugal will face Turkey in the Semi Finals before potentially going on to play Italy or North Macedonia in a winner-takes-all tie for qualification for Qatar. Head coach Fernando Santos will be hoping that Jota is fit and firing before those ties take place on 24th and 29th March.
Still, it’s probably too soon to tell how long Jota will be out for. Liverpool fans will be hoping he is back sooner rather than later, and the results of any scans are not as bad as first thought. The Reds have much to play for this season, and they will need their Portuguese marksman if they are to realise all of their ambitions.
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