Klopp counting on one final Salah masterclass as Champions League D-day looms

The Egyptian star swept the board in terms of awards this week - now the Reds require another decisive performance, against Brighton, to seal fourth

It’s already been a good week for Mohamed Salah, and Liverpool will be hoping it ends in style.

If it does, Jurgen Klopp’s side will have achieved one of their primary objectives for the season. Champions League qualification will be secured if the Reds avoid defeat against Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Sunday.

Salah, meanwhile, has his eyes on glory – and another piece of Premier League history.

One more goal will see the Egyptian set a new scoring record for a 38-game campaign, moving past such luminaries as Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez in the process. Salah has drawn a blank in his last three games in all competitions, but it would take a brave man to back against him delivering this weekend.

Doing so would cap a fruitful few days for the 25-year-old, who, on Thursday, added a trio of awards to his growing personal collection. 

A smiling Salah started the evening at Anfield, picking up Liverpool’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year gongs at their own in-house awards ceremony, before being whisked off to London to appear at the Football Writers Association dinner, where he was named Football of the Year.

He did so with Liverpool’s blessing, of course, with the logistics handled by Ray Haughan, the club’s team admin manager.

Salah, clearly, takes great pride in the personal accolades which continue to come his way. Liverpool fans, meanwhile, will have been heartened to hear him talk of his "ambitions for the future" with the club and how this season is "just the beginning". How they hope his words are not empty.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Klopp admitted that the forward’s city-hopping was hardly ideal preparation for what he has described as “the biggest game of the season.”

As a manager, he said, he would have preferred his star man “relaxing on the sofa watching a movie” instead of making a 500-mile round trip. The journalists who voted for the award, he suggested, “should have come to us to give it”.

It was all light-hearted enough, but the message could not be missed. “We are not partying,” he added, pointedly.

From Klopp’s perspective, the Brighton game is all that matters. Not recognising Salah’s brilliance – “I am absolutely not in the mood to praise anybody for the last few months” – not frustration at how Liverpool have again ended up scrapping for a top-four place on the final day of the season, and certainly not their forthcoming Champions League final with Real Madrid. Talk of Kiev is off-limits at Melwood for the time being.

First, there is work to do, for Klopp, for Salah, for everybody. “One big step,” the manager says. Then, and only then, can they start to dream.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool poses with the 2018 PFA Player Of The Year Award trophy at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London

“It’s not a farewell thing on Sunday,” Klopp said. “It’s a proper competition against a good football team.”

He spoke warmly of the job Chris Hughton has done at the Amex Stadium, listing him – along with Huddersfield’s David Wagner and Rafa Benitez at Newcastle – as one of his candidates for Manager of the Year. There's no danger of complacency, that's for sure.

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Liverpool, though, have the Player of the Year. Salah will be fit to start on Sunday, and should be joined by Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, the rest of Liverpool’s 88-goal forward line. A performance from one, two or three of them should be enough to get their team over the line – even if the job should have been done by now.

It would be fitting if Salah, the 43-goal star, the 'Egyptian King' could be the man to finish the job. His Anfield record is incredible, and his debut campaign on Merseyside has been little short of remarkable; Klopp will hope he has two more big performances left in him.

If he delivers, on Sunday and on May 26, then he can go to any awards ceremony he want. In fact, his manager would happily drive him there - wherever it is!