Diogo Jota made his first start since October against Crystal Palace after three appearances off the bench, but his performances are of little surprise after 120 days sidelined.
Jota is one of 23 senior Liverpool players who have been sidelined by injury this season, but his tally of 24 games missed sits at the higher end of the spectrum.
The No. 20 sustained a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury in pre-season that he picked up with Portugal, and returned for eight games before his long-term calf issue kept him out for four months.
Jurgen Klopp described Jota as “extremely football-smart” and thus would not require as long to get back up to speed, but it hasn’t quite played out like that.
Liverpool’s form as a unit has not helped the transition back into the team and putting that in perspective after Jota’s return to the XI at Palace, Klopp was content with what he saw.
“Based on that, I would say [his performance was] really, really good. We tried now to build it up slightly but it was a long time,” Klopp said of his No. 20.
“Before that, he was injured as well, so he came back from international duty for pre-season, he had no pre-season, he was injured, then he played a few games really good and then he was injured again.
“So far, it’s a really difficult season for him. Absolutely OK, he can play better of course, but that’s how it is, that’s what we have to go through and that’s what we do.”
The dynamic of the forward line was altered with Jota’s inclusion and Darwin Nunez‘s absence, and when asked if the runs in behind were missed by the latter, Klopp didn’t entertain the notion.
“Diogo Jota can do that as well and Mo, of course, can do that. So again, the first ball was not there and then from that moment on we didn’t offer it anymore,” Klopp explained.
“Diogo is, of course, a different player to Darwin, but it’s not about that – Diogo can play between the lines and can offer as well in behind.
“Being a threat in behind doesn’t mean you have to get the ball, it just opens up the space for the players in between the lines.”