Tuesday, April 20

Mohamed Salah and Liverpool need a win, not a rematch for Real Madrid | Liverpool


SUBWAYohamed Salah did not reveal much in an interview with Marca last week but he did reveal enough for the Spanish sports newspaper with close ties to Real Madrid to know that, yes, he is open to playing in La Liga one day and, yes, there are “ special”. motivation ”for Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday. A reunion with the Spanish champion is something he and Liverpool have longed for since their agonizing night in Kiev in 2018.

There will be no opportunity to personally exact revenge on Sergio Ramos with the Real Madrid captain offside due to injury, but there was always more to a draw with greater implications for two European heavyweights than Salah v Ramos part II. In the same way that the result of the 2018 Champions League final was more than the subjection and twist of the Real defender that ended Salah’s participation after 25 minutes. Loris Karius, left to walk alone after two terrible goalkeeping errors, and Gareth Bale, with a 29-minute man-of-the-match display, took care of that.

There is a “special motivation” for Salah and the other six Liverpool players who have remained at Olimpiyskiy Stadium since that night (Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson would have made nine in total) regardless of Ramos’ absence.

The four-time Champions League winner will be a major defeat for Real, who have lost seven of their last 10 matches in the competition played without him. Age may have caught up with Ramos, who turned 35 on Tuesday, in terms of persistent injuries and consistent performance level, but his status as the leader of Zinedine Zidane’s team and as a dominant and dominant figure in Spanish football remains intact.

As is his ability to deliver on the big occasion and when Real need him most, such as during the 10-game winning streak that rose to the league title last season after the restart. Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema have contributed more this season but, on defense, the team remains dependent on the veteran of the middle. Raphaël Varane and Nacho Fernández are much less secure without the influence of Ramos, whose contract with club president Florentino Pérez has created an unnecessary sideshow in an already difficult season for Zidane.

With Real third in La Liga, six points behind Atlético at the top, humiliated by Alcoyano from the third division in the Copa del Rey and doubts about Zidane’s future as a coach, the Champions League has assumed a meaning of everything or nothing for the Spanish. champions. Their English counterparts can relate to that unforeseen pressure, although, unlike Real, Liverpool’s participation in the Champions League next season appears to hinge on winning a seventh European crown in Istanbul.

Salah lies injured after fighting Sergio Ramos during the 2018 Champions League final.
Salah lies injured after fighting Sergio Ramos during the 2018 Champions League final. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

It’s April and Liverpool have yet to win at Anfield this calendar year. Their only victory “at home” came in neutral Budapest against RB Leipzig in the round of 16. There is only one more chance to correct that damaging sequence, against Aston Villa next Saturday, before Real reaches the second leg on the 14th.

Yet in a grueling, demoralizing and undistinguished campaign, the Premier League champions are four games away from their third Champions League final appearance in four seasons. It would be a remarkable feat for a fully functioning and fit team. It would be an extraordinary achievement for Liverpool in his condition, although perhaps totally in keeping with this peculiar campaign.

Salah’s consistently prolific production (five goals in Europe this season and 25 in all competitions) is all the more impressive given the problems Liverpool have faced and the knock-on effect that injuries to all of the top central defenders had on the national team. of the midfield, in addition to a well-trained team. plan of attack.

Raphaël Varane defending against Duván Zapata of Atalanta
Raphaël Varane (right, against Atalanta’s Duván Zapata) has had less security for Real Madrid without the influence of Sergio Ramos. Photograph: Getty Images

The performances of the three starting forwards have suffered, with Roberto Firmino’s status threatened by the more powerful Diogo Jota. Firmino has six goals in 37 games for Liverpool this season, although goals alone have never reflected the Brazilian’s influence on Jürgen Klopp’s side, and Sadio Mané 12 in 37.

However, Salah’s numbers have remained outstanding in a season in which he has surpassed Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s record scorer in the Champions League (he remains 30-25 in favor of the former captain if qualifiers are included) and He eclipsed his tally of all 23 competitions from the emphatic year in which he won the title. As in Kiev, Real will be well aware of the danger.

The risk for Liverpool is a player of the caliber and profile of Salah, who will turn 29 in June, and who wants to leave in case the Champions League is not offered at Anfield next season. Klopp has dismissed the prospect, insisting that there is not only loyalty within his team, but also belief in a full recovery once key players return from injury.

“It’s not a situation where a player on the squad says, ‘We’re not in the Champions League so I have to go,'” the Liverpool manager said last month after Salah’s agent Ramy Abbas Issa, will post a cryptic one-stop tweet following his client’s early replacement against Chelsea. “That won’t happen. I know them well enough to know. I know we have the loyalty of the players.”

That may be true, and Liverpool’s recent improvement with Fabinho back in central midfield and Jota returning from injury supports Klopp’s belief that this season’s internal implosion is not evidence of long-term structural decline.

The Fiver – Sign up and receive our daily soccer email.

Which makes the time and place of Salah’s conversation with Marca even more intriguing. The Egyptian international rarely accepts interviews, but has given two in four months to Spain’s biggest sports media. He may be planting the seed for an expensive exit or a new contract with Liverpool, and his existing contract expires in two years, but that can wait.

The first is a Champions League quarter-final that can shape the immediate future of Liverpool and Real Madrid.


www.theguardian.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *