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Even injuries can't slow Liverpool as Salah and Mane keep the red machine rolling

01:01 GMT+3 03/01/2020
Salah Liverpool 2020
The Reds lost Naby Keita in the warm-up but restored their 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United

Not even injuries can halt this Liverpool team, it seems.

The Reds’ list of absentees continues to grow, but so does the belief that this, finally, will be the year their long wait for a league title comes to an end.

Jurgen Klopp’s side began 2020 as they had spent most of 2019; winning. Sheffield United were the latest victims, beaten 2-0 at Anfield as the Premier League leaders restored their 13-point advantage at the top of the table.

Despite losing the in-form Naby Keita to a groin injury in the warm-up, there was to be no hiccup from the champions-elect. “We only have 13 outfield players,” Klopp had said on Wednesday, but when they are as good as these players are, you do not need much more.

Keita joins Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Clyne and Xherdan Shaqiri on a lengthy-looking injury list. But if in previous seasons that would have been enough to derail Liverpool’s season, it is unlikely to be the case this time. This team, these players, are made of far stronger stuff. 

They had too much for Sheffield United here. The day had started with the Blades’ ‘activation session’, held in Stanley Park, being gatecrashed by an intrepid local dog, but it would be a couple of more familiar faces that would disrupt their plans in the evening. 

Mo Salah needed just four minutes to mark his territory, the Egyptian shaking off a couple of lacklustre performances in front of goal by sweeping Liverpool ahead from Andy Robertson’s cross. Fourteen for the season now for the Egyptian, who remains the worst ‘one-season wonder’ of all time surely?

Salah turned provider for the second goal, his incisive pass finished off, eventually, by Sadio Mane after the break. Anything you can do, I can do. Mane remains one goal clear of his friendly rival in the race to be the Reds’ top scorer.

Mane's goal all-but killed the game as a contest, Liverpool fairly cruising to their fifth straight league clean sheet. Since Joe Gomez joined the imperious Virgil van Dijk at the heart of Klopp’s defence, they have barely looked like conceding. Both Gomez and Van Dijk, friends off the field as well as partners on it, were exceptional here.

So too, were Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum. If there is a silver lining to the cloud of the injuries, it is that most of Klopp’s go-to men, in defence, midfield or attack, are still standing. They will all, for sure, get a good rest on Sunday, when Liverpool will make wholesale changes for the visit of Everton in the FA Cup third round.

That may jar with the traditionalists, but this is 2020. Liverpool’s eyes are on the Premier League and the Champions League. They will, you suspect, back themselves to win this weekend, whatever team they field. They were able to give Harvey Elliott, who will surely start, his Premier League debut for the club as a late substitute here.

What an experience for the 16-year-old, who replaced Salah in stoppage time. He has joined the best team in the country, the best team in Europe, the best team in the world. 

And right now that is the case, no matter who is fit and available. The faces may change, but the story remains the same. 

Liverpool are top, and they do not look like they will be stopped.