Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has backed striker Christian Benteke to end his current slump but admits there is “no hiding place” for the £32.5million signing.
The 25-year-old has not scored for 11 matches, a run stretching back to Boxing Day, and has just seven goals for the whole season.
He is still Liverpool’s top scorer, which speaks volumes about the Reds’ general form in front of goal, but with Daniel Sturridge making his long-awaited return from injury in Tuesday’s FA Cup exit at West Ham Benteke’s situation will come under even more scrutiny.
Klopp has spoken to the Belgium international about his struggles but admits only the player can really help himself.
“I can do a lot of things but at the end – and it is not only with Christian – the last important help comes from the player himself,” said the Reds boss.
“It is not the easiest period of his career but the number of opportunities (he is getting) is a good sign, if he had no opportunities it would be a much bigger problem but it is not too easy.
“You cannot hide yourself. I talked to him a few times and gave him some advice as a human being and a coach and he has really tried to come back to an easy moment.
“Strikers who do not score goals for a longer period are more interesting than someone else who does not score enough.
“But there are worse situations in the world – even in the world of football – so we have to carry on and he has to carry on.”
Liverpool head to Benteke’s former club Aston Villa on Sunday but Klopp cautioned against that trip sparking the big centre-forward into goalscoring action again.
“I have not the best experience with players coming back to former clubs, it is usually they make more pressure for themselves because they want to show extra,” the German said.
“I don’t know the history with Christian and Aston Villa so I don’t know whether they will welcome him with open arms or whistles but that is not too interesting for me.
“I don’t hope too often before a game ‘Come on, maybe this is the game when it will change’. It is about work and circumstances and we will see what line-up we will choose but it is not because of personal histories with this club.”
Sturridge seems likely to be eased back in after his first appearance for two months, coming off the bench to play for over an hour at Upton Park.
Klopp will take no chances with the England international, who has played just seven times this season.
“He feels good and I have heard nothing else. We have to think about how we can manage the minutes but he made a big step in the last week and that is good,” he said.
Another welcome boost at West Ham was the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho after a month out with a hamstring injury, who scored with a free-kick which went under the wall.
“It was one of the smartest free-kicks in football, you don’t see this too often and it was really cool,” said Klopp.
“Phil Coutinho is in good shape and I don’t know the names of too many teams in the world where he would not play.
“He has had two not too long but long-term injuries where four or five weeks (out) in the middle of the season is not too easy.
“He has to come back and find his rhythm and we will try to help him but if Phil is back he is always someone who can make the difference in a game.”
The injury situation is finally easing – although midfielder Joe Allen has been ruled out for a “long” time with a hamstring problem – and Klopp is looking forward to having plenty of options.
“It is the first time I’ve had this problem – usually anyone who could walk or stand up in a morning played!” he added. “Now we have the situation where hopefully we have to make some decisions.”
KLOPP’S PRE-VILLA PRESSER
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