London (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp believes in-form Egypt winger Mohamed Salah holds the key to Liverpool maintaining their recent revival at West Ham on Saturday.
After a spluttering start to the season, Klopp’s side have eased the pressure on their German coach with successive 3-0 wins over Huddersfield and Maribor.
The Reds head to east London hoping to maintain that welcome upturn in their fortunes and Klopp knows Salah will be crucial to his plans.
Since arriving from Roma in the close-season, Salah has already scored 10 times, including four in his last three appearances.
The 25-year-old’s sky-high confidence was clear to see on Wednesday when he broke Maribor’s resistance at Anfield with a clever back-heeled goal.
Salah has taken just 16 matches to reach double figures in the goal charts — a strike-rate that puts him on a par with Fernando Torres and better than Luis Suarez at the start of their prolific Anfield careers.
Deployed on the right wing, the former Chelsea player has benefited from being able to cut inside and Klopp is impressed with his progress.
“He is a very offensive midfielder, if not a striker,” Klopp said.
“He likes these situations. He used his speed even in the small space (against Maribor), coming in behind.”
Liverpool’s growing injury list means Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could make his first Premier League start for the club.
Oxlade-Chamberlain started against Maribor and with Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane all sidelined, the former Arsenal midfielder could finally feature after a slow start to his Anfield career following his August arrival.
“If he starts a Champions League game, he is not far from starting a Premier League game, no?” Klopp said.
“He was good, he offered a lot, I loved his counter-pressing situations. I’m not sure he did this a lot of times in his life already so it was really nice to see.”
– Mounting pressure –
Without a win in their last three league games, West Ham are only one point above the relegation zone as pressure mounts on boss Slaven Bilic.
A League Cup win over Tottenham earlier this month was said to have saved Bilic from the sack.
But the Croatian’s job security wasn’t helped when his side conceded a last-minute equaliser against bottom of the table Crystal Palace last weekend.
A heavy defeat against Liverpool would leave Bilic’s future in doubt again and Bilic acknowledged results need to improve quickly.
“I was frustrated and angry at losing the chance to get points (against Palace). It was unbelievably important,” he said.
“Now yes, of course I need something personally. I am in a position I don’t want to be in. I have been there for a quite a time now.
“Every win, even in the cup but especially in the league, it will take us and me out of that position and put us in a more comfortable position.
“Every game you don’t win puts you in a worse position. We have to think about Liverpool, as it being a very important game.
“I do think I can turn it around, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Adding to Bilic’s problems, West Ham’s defensive options have been decimated by injuries to Sam Byram, Jose Fonte and James Collins, while right-back Pablo Zabaleta is suspended.
Hammers winger Michail Antonio is also ruled out due to injury.
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