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Explained: Why Mo Salah & Firmino aren't playing against Barcelona for Liverpool

15:29 IST 07/05/2019
Mohamed Salah Roberto Firmino Liverpool Champions League 2018-19
Jurgen Klopp's side have been dealt a huge blow following the news that two of their favoured attackers will miss out on the showdown at Anfield

Liverpool face the almost impossible task of trying to overturn a three-goal deficit against Barcelona when they host the Spanish side in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final at Anfield without two of their best forward players in Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

The Reds fell to a 3-0 first leg defeat at Camp Nou last week and must score three goals on home turf if they want to send the tie into extra time. Should Barcelona score an away goal, however, Liverpool will be required to score five goals to further their hopes of securing a spot in the Champions League final for the second successive year.

Lionel Messi, in typical starring form, netted a brace during the first leg in Spain, while former ex-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez also added to the tally.

But in addition to the deficit and the task of having to keep the La Liga champions quiet, Liverpool's season is already set to end in devastating fashion following confirmation that neither Salah nor Firmino will feature in the return leg at Anfield.

The Brazil international had been sidelined with a muscle injury that caused him to miss out on the win over Huddersfield at the end of April, but was brought on in the final few minutes of the loss at Camp Nou. He was, however, left out of the squad that travelled to Newcastle on Saturday and has since been ruled out of the Barcelona clash.

"He will not be ready for Tuesday and the rest we will see," Jurgen Klopp said following the win over the Magpies .

Salah, who sits as the club's top goalscorer in the Premier League, is also set to miss out after sustaining a concussion at St James' Park and will not be risked for the European tie.

He was stretchered off the pitch after clashing with Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka , who looked to have struck the Egypt international with his hip as he jumped to clear a high ball in the final 20 minutes of the game.

The 26-year-old scored his 22nd Premier League goal of the season during the tie, which helped Liverpool secure an eighth domestic win in a row and temporarily restored them to the top of the table.

"Salah cannot play tomorrow. He is better in his recovery, but he cannot play tomorrow," Klopp stated in his press conference on Monday.

"Precaution? No, it's a concussion, which means he is not allowed to play. He feels OK, but it is not good enough from a medical point of view." 

It is a huge blow for Liverpool whose hopes of overturning a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona already seem unlikely. Salah and Firmino are both instrumental members of Klopp's favoured attacking unit alongside Sadio Mane, with the trio having scored four Champions League goals apiece.

With Klopp's two main attackers ruled out of the second leg, he may turn to Xherdan Shaqiri, who impressed in the victory over Newcastle, or Daniel Sturridge. Georgino Wijnaldum played up front in Firmino's absence at Camp Nou last week and could be expected to do so again.

“It doesn’t make life easier,” said Klopp in his pre-match press conference . “Two of the world’s best strikers are out and we need to score four goals to go through in 90 minutes.

“But as long as we have 11 players on the pitch, we will try.”

There was also concern that neither Virgil van Dijk nor Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be fit to feature in the semi-final having missed out on the final training session on Monday. Van Dijk, who was recently awarded the PFA Players of the Year prize, would be another massive injury worry for the Reds' European hopes, while the England international midfielder recently recovered from a long-term knee injury.

However, Liverpool stated that both players were involved in individual training sessions and could still feature on Tuesday.

Firmino netted 16 goals in all competitions this season, as well as providing seven assists in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Salah is also a favourite to finish the season as the winner of the Golden Boot for the second season in a row, set to beat out the likes of Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane.

While Klopp did reveal that the Egypt forward will return in time to face Wolves on the final day of the season, he did not give any further information on whether or not Firmino's season had already ended.

It has been a breathless end to the season for Liverpool, with their European and Premier League fates to be decided in just a matter of days. On Sunday, Liverpool will play their final game of the Premier League season against Wolves knowing that a win may not be enough to clinch the league title.

With Manchester City sitting one point above them in the table, Klopp's side can only hope that the Sky Blues will drop points in their final game against Brighton  and  secure a win over Wolves in order to be crowned league champions for the first time in nearly 30 years.