Just the other day, I was writing about how the international window might benefit Mo Salah.
Me and my big mouth! Just a week later, the Egyptian King has made an early return from international duty with the Pharaohs complete with a muscle injury. Salah was replaced late in the game having scored directly from a corner in Egypt’s 4-1 African Cup of Nations win over Swaziland.
An official statement released by the FA stated that: “Javier Aguirre has decided to let Mohamed Salah return to his club and not participate in the Swaziland match on Tuesday to give him more rest. During the previous match against Swaziland, Salah complained of stress in the musculoskeletal muscle. He was examined medically and radiation was performed on the area of complaint after the game.”
And with that, Salah is back at Melwood and the club are sweating on his injury. He may well have been rotated out of the team with a trip to Huddersfield Town coming up immediately following the international break, and any injury concerns will likely confirm that to be the case. He may not have scored for four games but Salah is still an important cog in Jürgen Klopp’s finely tuned machine.
With Xherdan Shaqiri knocking down the door for more time on the field, it makes sense to give Salah a little bit of extra time off to rest up and be ready for another key run of matches as the Reds look to build on their excellent start to the season.
Another injury casualty back at Melwood earlier than expected is Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk. Having scored the opener for his country in their 3-0 thumping of Germany on Saturday, van Dijk has been sent home early with a rib complaint.
I doubt this is a massive surprise to the club. Ever since the 3-2 victory over Paris St Germain, van Dijk has been carrying this rib injury. But with the Dutchman being so important to the way we play, we have tried to get him on the field as much as possible. There’s no question that van Dijk has been nothing short of imperious since his £75m transfer.
However, if he is short of fitness we would be better placed to exploit our options and rotate. If van Dijk is struggling with his rib then we need to rest him. We have Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and the now fully fit Dejan Lovren ready to step in.
Of course, none of those three are at van Dijk’s level but given he is amongst the world’s elite, that isn’t a massive surprise. But with Huddersfield struggling, this is the kind of game that we need to target winning whilst resting some of our big hitters. With a more favourable run of games between this international break and the next (yes, there’s yet another in November!) we need to think of the bigger picture and rest players.
Klopp has constructed a squad that should be capable of challenging on several fronts and we will likely get to see these credentials tested in the coming weeks. With both Salah and van Dijk likely to need time to rest their niggles, we have the perfect run of games coming up to shuffle our deck.
We have overcome the tough run of games in September and October and now we must turn our attention to some of the poorer teams in the league.
In recent history, these are the games we have struggled in but Fortress Anfield and our mean, lean defence means we are a different proposition currently.
And the next time I say there are benefits to our players going on international break, feel free to remind me of this!
*all odds are subject to change