Jota firing Liverpool's quadruple bid as Reds set up Manchester City showdown

Diogo Jota Liverpool 2021-22Getty Images

Mohamed Salah might be their superstar, Sadio Mane their warrior, Roberto Firmino their magician and Luis Diaz their new darling.

But where on earth would Liverpool be without Diogo Jota?

There are plenty of difference-makers at Anfield these days, but few are as decisive as the Portugal international.

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They do not call him ‘Jota the Slotter’ for nothing. He's the King of the Penalty Area, as far as Liverpool are concerned.

“What a player, what a boy!” boomed Jurgen Klopp on Sunday after Jota’s goal, his 19th of the season, had edged the Reds past Nottingham Forest and into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where a mouthwatering Wembley clash with Manchester City awaits.

Strap yourselves in, Reds fans, because if February and March have been memorable, then April and May could be absolutely seismic. They don’t like to talk about it, and understandably so, but the quadruple is alive and kicking. Klopp’s side are 16 games from immortality.

With Jota in this kind of form, they have a chance. There are some players who just have that knack, that ability to be in the right place at the right time, and he is most definitely one. A game-changer, a match-winner.

Another was sat in the television studio at the City Ground on Sunday, actually. Jota still has some way to go if he’s to match Robbie Fowler’s goalscoring feats at Anfield, but there are certainly similarities between the two, in terms of their movement and instinct around the penalty area.

“He’s been brilliant,” Fowler told ITV Sport. “There are some strikers who are always dropping deep, which is fine, but he does his work in the box and that makes him a huge threat.”

This is now the most prolific campaign of Jota’s career, but it is not just the volume of goals which is striking. It is the variety of his strikes, and the significance of them.

Twelve times this season, he has scored the Reds’ first goal in a game. The latest came at Forest, where he stretched to touch home Kostas Tsimikas’ inviting left-wing cross, 12 minutes from time.

“Massive,” said Klopp. Jota did not play particularly well, if truth be told, but just as at Arsenal on Wednesday, and just as on so many other occasions before that, it was he who found the code to crack open the safe.

“If you’re going to pass the ball to Diogo, then make sure it’s in the box!” joked one member of Liverpool’s staff. All of Jota's goals this season have come from inside the 18-yard box. He has scored seven with his right foot, seven with his left, and five with his head. In terms of finishing, he has no real weakness.

With Diaz on board, Klopp is suddenly able to chop and change his frontline without it damaging his side’s chances. That could well prove decisive in the coming weeks, as the season reaches a thrilling climax.

Before then comes an international break, however. “I don’t hate them,” Klopp said on Sunday, “but they worry me!” He will spend the next 10 days with his fingers crossed, as his stars head off around the world.

Joe Gomez Ibrahima Konate Diogo Jota Liverpool GFX Getty Images

Jota is among those in action. Portugal face Turkey in a crunch World Cup qualification play-off in Porto on Thursday. Win that, and they will play either Italy or North Macedonia next Tuesday for a place in Qatar.

He is not the only one with big games to play, either. Salah and Mane face off as Egypt take on Senegal, Takumi Minamino is on the brink of qualification with Japan, while Diaz’s Colombia need a minor miracle as they take on Bolivia and Venezuela. 

Klopp will hope and pray that all emerge unscathed. He already has concerns over Trent Alexander-Arnold, the defender having missed the Forest game due to a hamstring injury. The feeling is that he could be back to face Benfica in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on April 5, but it will be touch and go.

They handled the England international’s absence on Sunday, with Joe Gomez filling in admirably. Klopp’s whole squad will be needed between now and the end of May, that is for sure, with everyone asked to play their part. 

Jota is certainly playing his. “He will take us to victory,” sang the Liverpool fans at Forest. Better get used to that tune. One suspects you will be hearing it quite a lot over the next few weeks.