Jurgen Klopp has said Mohamed Salah is still struggling to come to terms with Egypt’s penalty shoot-out defeat against Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final after returning to Liverpool this week.
Salah is expected to make his first Liverpool appearance since departing for AFCON duty at the beginning of January when Leicester City visit Anfield on Thursday.
Defeat against Senegal in Cameroon on Sunday saw Salah and Egypt lose a second AFCON final in three tournaments and the 29-year-old, whose appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was hampered by a shoulder injury sustained against Real Madrid in the Champions League final a month earlier, has still to win a continental title with seven-time champions Egypt.
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The loss to Sadio Mane’s Senegal was compounded for Salah due to his inability to take a spot-kick in the shoot-out with Egypt being beaten before he was able to take the fifth penalty.
And with his international career once again failing to match his club achievements, Liverpool manager Klopp said that Salah has yet to overcome the disappointment of missing out on AFCON glory.
“Mo is very disappointed,” Klopp said. “It’s a massive thing. Losing a final is always hard, especially the way Egypt lost it, which makes it especially hard.
“He is happy to be back here, and he trained yesterday and today, but he is disappointed as well. We spoke obviously, and he will deal with it of course, but yesterday everyone could see he still has the final on his mind.
“I don’t think there is a lot of space for more determination in Mo’s mind. It’s there for all of us, but when you lose a big final, it’s really hard.
“But if you can use it [disappointment] for the next game or the next tournament, then it can be useful. How we will benefit from it exactly, I don’t know.”
While Salah is due to return to club duty against Leicester, Mane is a doubt to face Brendan Rodgers’ team having been allowed to travel from Cameroon to Senegal to take part in the celebrations for the country’s first-ever AFCON triumph.
“Sadio is not back yet, but it is such a big thing ([or Senegal] and you can see that by the celebration,” Klopp said. “We didn’t want to stress anyone there by asking him to come back, we just said enjoy it and come back as early as possible. I think that will be tonight.”
Liverpool face Leicester as Manchester City’s closest challengers in the Premier League — Liverpool are nine points behind City with a game in hand — and with hopes still alive of success in the Champions League and both domestic cup competitions.
And although he was reluctant to talk up the prospect of a clean sweep of honours this season, Klopp added Liverpool are determined to push hard on all fronts between now and the end of the season.
“It doesn’t seem really likely [to win everything], but we are not here today to know what happens in May,” Klopp said. “The focus is on the next game. That is the only way I know to win games.
“The next game is the next challenge. I couldn’t care less at this moment, but we want to squeeze out everything from this season, whatever it means. I don’t know any other way to give it a try.
“We have 12 games until the next international break so if we, as a club and supporters want to reach whatever the maximum is for us, we had better start creating atmospheres on the highest level and Thursday night is a good chance to do that.”