Mohamed Salah was among the substitutes for the Champions League quarter-final decider against Benfica, which Jurgen Klopp described as a “necessity.”
Klopp made seven changes for the second leg at Anfield, and despite a strong start it showed, as Liverpool were pegged back for a 3-3 draw.
But winning 6-4 on aggregate, they booked their place in the semi-finals against Villarreal.
The decision to leave Salah out has unsurprisingly sparked more stories than other players, with the Egyptian’s absence the focus in Klopp’s pre-Man City press conference.
However, Klopp calmly explained the situation, with Salah’s workload being managed along with the rest of the squad – after playing 1,829 minutes over the first three months of the season alone.
“The reason for Mo not starting is easy. Yes, he played City, but we have after that hopefully 12 games [left to play],” he told reporters.
“That’s why [we rest him] when we have the opportunity to change, that’s all.
“Even if Mo would have scored four goals in the last game, he wouldn’t have started yesterday. That’s how it is.
“Nothing to do with anything, there’s no story to make of it. It’s just the necessity.
“Mo played, in January and February, six times 120 minutes. So now can we just close our eyes and say ‘who cares’?
“Even he is just a human being. That’s why it’s clear there will be games when we can’t start him, there will be games when we take him off.
“He hates that. That’s clear.
“So people might think what actually am I doing the whole day – I have to think about these kinds of things, when these things are really necessary to do.
“That was clearly the case and I think the game proved it, 100 percent.
“We spoke afterwards about conceding the goals and stuff like this.
“Yes it was, in moments, not good defending, we were a bit flat-footed and hoping it was offside – that’s not how you should do it – but in general the intensity of the game showed me it was 100 percent right to change seven times.”
Perhaps unlike some players, Salah is never content with missing a game, but following a ruthless start to the year with Egypt, and with Liverpool still chasing three more trophies in mid-April, it is essential.
“Believe me, it’s a massive difference,” Klopp continued.
“If you play three days after you played, again 90 minutes, you have to go with all you have, or if you play a few minutes in this game and have today a nice session, which is intense as well but not even close to the intensity of a game, and all of a sudden [you feel better].
“The boys are all high-trained athletes, they don’t need a lot of time for recovery. But no time for recovery? That doesn’t work.
“That’s why I make the decisions.”
The manager added: “[Footballers] are completely in a tunnel. They want to play, play, play, play, play, they want to be successful, win everything. That’s what they want to do.
“That’s why I don’t ask players: ‘Are you tired?’. [Because they would say] ‘no, no…do I look like it?’.
“I have to make the decision without talking a lot – just make it, and then deal with it, go from there. My responsibility, right or wrong.
“But yesterday seven players who started three or four days ago now didn’t start, great; seven more players got some rhythm, great; we are in the semi-finals, outstanding.”