Liverpool have chance to test squad strength after Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah return injured

David Lynch
Cameos from Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri (above) have excited Liverpool fans this season: AFP/Getty Images/Glynn Kirk

If Liverpool’s summer investment served its purpose, Jurgen Klopp should be facing a slightly less anxious wait over the fitness of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the coming days.

Both forwards are doubts for the Reds’ upcoming trip to Huddersfield Town after sustaining suspected groin and thumb injuries respectively while on international duty this week.

Salah was forced off in the final moments of Egypt’s 4-1 win over eSwatini on Friday evening having earlier ended a four-game goalless run in style - scoring direct from a corner.

Mane, meanwhile, was taken to hospital after injuring his hand in a training session with Senegal on Monday and subsequently returned to Melwood early for further assessment.

Liverpool’s medical staff will hope Salah’s fitness setback is nothing more than an aggravation of the minor groin complaint they successfully managed throughout the back end of 2017-18.

The 26-year-old missed just one game - a goalless draw with neighbours Everton - during last season’s run-in after coming off early during the 3-0 Champions League win over Manchester City at Anfield with a similar problem.

They will also be optimistic that Mane’s hand issue is one that can be played through once sufficient strapping is applied to the problem area.

As such, supporters should not automatically expect the pair to be omitted from the starting XI at the John Smith’s Stadium this weekend, but should their medical assessments throw up even a suggestion of risk, Klopp has a chance to turn his newly improved squad.

News of the duo’s injuries induced noticeably less panic on social media than it might have done last season; the idea of deviation from the ‘first-choice’ line-up is a less scary prospect for fans nowadays, it appears.

Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri (below) are two major reasons for that, the pair having done enough during their brief cameos to get supporters excited over the prospect of greater involvement.

Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Sturridge has four goals to his name from just 205 minutes of action in all competitions this term and is, according to Klopp, fitter than he has been at any point over the last three years.

Shaqiri, meanwhile, looks ready to stamp his mark after enduring a curate’s egg of a start to his Anfield career.

The Swiss was hooked at half-time after a sparkling 45-minute outing against Southampton last month before impressing again as the Reds’ League Cup hopes went up in smoke against Chelsea.

Consequently, those two head up the queue to come into Liverpool’s starting line-up should Salah and Mane miss out at Huddersfield - or, in fact, even if they don’t.

The Reds finished an energy-sapping run of seven games in 23 days by drawing with Manchester City prior to this international break, but have an equally busy schedule to navigate before the next one.

This time, it’s six fixtures in 23 days for Klopp and Co - a run in which guarding against injuries to the likes of Salah and Mane will be just as important as reacting to them.

Crucially, this period also features no Chelsea double-header, no daunting trip to Naples, and no showdown with the reigning Premier League champions.

In fact, Arsenal stand out as the only elite-level opponent featuring in the games to come, and even they are still in the early stages of getting to grips with a new approach under Unai Emery.

And so, rather than a selection headache, Klopp has been handed an opportunity for a show of faith in his options beyond that much-vaunted front three.

Even if Salah and Mane prove fit enough to face Huddersfield, he should consider taking it.