Why Diogo Jota’s injury return is key ahead of enforced Mohamed Salah absence

Diogo Jota‘s injury is a blow to Liverpool’s forward options, and Jurgen Klopp will be desperate to have him back in the fold before he loses Mohamed Salah at the turn of the year.

Jota suffered one of the two injuries from the draw at Man City, with Alisson joining the No. 20 in the treatment room with a hamstring injury of his own.

But while the hope is for the No. 1 to return for the visit of Man United on December 17, Jota will be out for a “little big longer” as his injury is “a bit more severe.”

If the prognosis for Alisson is nearly three weeks, one could assume that Jota will need at least four or more to recover before then slowly integrating back into the side, presumably in 2024.

Jota’s injury leaves Klopp with four senior forward options, but he knows Salah is leaving in early January for the Africa Cup of Nations, highlighting the importance of Jota returning sooner rather than later.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 16, 2023: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister, manager Jürgen Klopp, Kostas Tsimikas, assistant manager Peter Krawietz, Wataru Endo, first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg, head of fitness and conditioning Andreas Kornmayer, Stefan Bajcetic, Diogo Jota, club Doctor Jonathan Power, goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher and Mohamed Salah look on from the bench during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, they will not rush Jota back as he has had a number of hamstring injuries previously, but it highlights the potential for depleted senior options at the start of the year.

AFCON starts on January 13 and Liverpool and Egypt may agree for Salah to leave before the FA Cup third round on January 6/7, and he could be gone until the final on February 11.

All in all, the Egyptian could miss up to 10 games – dependent on cup progress and if replays are needed – which would include four league games and possibly a League Cup semi-final tie.

While Jota’s previous injury absences have extended beyond the initial prognosis, the hope is that Liverpool can welcome him back in early January at the latest – but only time will tell.

The Portugal international will not be in a position to return straight to the starting lineup, he will need games off the bench first and after a hectic festive schedule, this will put a lot of strain on Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz.

Klopp is going to have to rotate effectively – and this will give opportunities to Harvey Elliott and Ben Doak – but hopefully Jota will return in good time to minimise the impact of Salah’s absence for AFCON.

The Reds cannot afford an injury crisis to start the new year and managing the squad will be paramount.