November 30, 2020

Jurgen Klopps next Xherdan Shaqiri decision will be telling as Liverpool boss faces dilemma – Liverpool Echo

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/liverpool-tranfer-news-xherdan-shaqiri-19290889

Xherdan Shaqiri is in a position he has only been in once before at Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s men head into their game against Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Switzerland international knew that his role would be primarily to supplement Klopp’s ranks upon signing for £13 million from Stoke City in 2018 and that is what he has done, certainly in his first season at the club and the start of this one.

The attacker’s chances to shine, though, have been severely limited. Even when he has been in his best form, there has always been a significant stumbling block to regular minutes in front of him.

Mohamed Salah, the Reds’ main man on the right side of Liverpool’s front three, has only ever not started one Premier League match in his entire Liverpool career because of an injury.

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That was the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last season in which Adam Lallana scored a late equaliser. Divock Origi started in his place, with Shaqiri sidelined himself with a calf injury at the time.

The only other game in which Salah has been injured and unable to start since becoming a Liverpool player in summer 2017 was the second leg against Barcelona that Liverpool won 4-0 in the Champions League semi-final and, as we know, Shaqiri did start that one.

Of course, there have been matches Salah has missed through rotation, but when he is fit and there is a big game like Leicester, unless he suffering a rare injury, or has tested positive for COVID-19 as is currently the case, the Egyptian will start.

Shaqiri came into Liverpool knowing exactly the role that he was going to play but Sunday, with no Salah to pick, is a chance for him to stake a proper claim once again.

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Salah will no doubt slot straight back into the side once he is able, but Shaqiri knows that there are plenty of other players in the front line that he has to compete with to be first reserve.

Against Barcelona, Shaqiri was the obvious choice to turn to in the absence of Salah.

Now, though, there is Takumi Minamino, who did not even make the bench against Manchester City, Origi, who also started against Barcelona, scoring twice, and, of course, Diogo Jota.

There are not too many games that really matter where Shaqiri will have seen a real, genuine opening for him to go into the team in his favoured right-sided role, given Salah is always available.

As was discussed on the Blood Red podcast, Sunday is a rare opportunity where that will be the case, and could therefore provide an indicator of Shaqiri’s long-term future at Anfield.

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The winger could very easily have left over the summer, but if he was to get the nod, that would be a testament to the season that he has had so far and the standing he still has under Klopp.

It remains a distinct possibility, though, even in the absence of Salah, with Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane all fit, that he could start on the bench again.

He is extremely unlikely to overtake Salah and replace him every week, but being first in line to come in has got to be his target.

Should that not be evident on Sunday, it is likely to mean that if another chance to move on presents itself, Shaqiri might just take it.