Jurgen Klopp has explained that Mohamed Salah will have to get used to being rested for his own good, even if he hates not being on the pitch.
Liverpool’s top scorer was only a substitute for Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against Benfica in the Champions League, though he is poised to return to the side for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
Salah has not scored in open play since February and Liverpool have more attacking options after the January signing of Luis Diaz but Klopp said it was his heavy workload, particularly in the African Cup of Nations with Egypt, rather than his goal drought that meant he was on the bench.
“Even if Mo had scored four goals [against City on Sunday] he wouldn’t have started the last game,” he said. “It was just a necessity. Mo played in January and February six times 120 minutes. Even he is a human being. There will be games he cannot start and games where we take him off. He hates that.”
Klopp said he does not consult his big names before leaving them out, adding: “Footballers are completely in a tunnel, they want to play, play, play. That is why I don’t ask players: ‘Are you tired?’ I have to make decisions without talking a lot and after that it is my responsibility if it is right or wrong.”
Klopp defended his decision to leave out Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Sadio Mane as well as Salah for the second leg against Benfica, as Liverpool booked a place in the Champions League semi-finals against Villarreal.
“In general the intensity of the game showed me it was 100 per cent right to change seven players,” he said. He hopes Liverpool will be fresher at Wembley, whereas City did not have the luxury of resting players for their second leg against Atletico Madrid, but believes his own side need to play better than they did in the 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
“City was really strong last week and we were not at our best so I would like to see a game when we are at our best as well, so let’s give it a try,” he said.
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Klopp has a record nine victories against Pep Guardiola but has not won in the last five and believes the City manager has altered his tactics to defend better against Liverpool.
He explained: “I think we had some decent counter-attacks in the past and then Pep decided full backs were not allowed to pass the half-way line. It is normal, we try to deny them as well. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.”
Klopp, who is urging the Premier League and broadcasters to move Liverpool’s April 30 trip to Newcastle, three days after they face Villarreal, to a later kick-off that day to aid his players’ recovery, is expecting another hard-fought encounter, which he compared to the League Cup final against Chelsea.
“It is a really intense fight on a really high level,” he said. “The concentration levels the boys have to bring on the pitch is insane. It is really similar to the Chelsea cup final.”
Liverpool have not won the FA Cup since 2006 and this is a belated first FA Cup semi-final for Klopp, who won the German equivalent with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
“In Germany, I was quite a lot in the final but we all know I tend to lose finals from time to time so I didn’t win as often as I would have wished but this is a massive competition,” he said. “My first experience in a semi-final at Wembley so better late than never.”