Jurgen Klopp does not believe there is any team that would not miss Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, after Liverpool felt the duo’s absence against Arsenal.
Salah and Mane, along with midfielder Naby Keita, are on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mane scored a last-gasp winner on Monday for Senegal against Zimbabwe, and he and Guinea’s Keita go head-to-head when their nations face off on Friday.
Salah, meanwhile, was kept quiet as Egypt slipped to a 1-0 loss to Nigeria in their opening group game. The forward, who has netted 23 times across all competitions this season for Liverpool, had just four touches in the opposition box and managed just one attempt, which did hit the target, in Monday’s game.
Klopp would have loved to have the star duo at his disposal on Thursday, however, as Liverpool were frustrated by 10-man Arsenal in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Anfield.
Granit Xhaka’s dismissal midway through the first half resulted in Mikel Arteta switching to an incredibly compact 5-3-1 system, which Liverpool were unable to break down.
The Reds had 78.1 per cent of the ball and 17 attempts to Arsenal’s three, though only one of them – a stoppage-time effort from Curtis Jones – troubled Aaron Ramsdale.
Arsenal’s goalkeeper had gifted Takumi Minamino a golden opportunity in the 90th minute, but the Japan international, who had a game-leading six attempts, failed to keep his shot down with the goal gaping. The chance was Liverpool’s best of the game, according to Opta, with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.384.
Asked in a post-match news conference if Liverpool could have been better prepared for the absences of key players, Klopp replied: “Any team would miss Salah, Mane and Keita.
“Could we be prepared for it? I don’t think so.
“We’ve known that already for years. This team was what we had tonight, it can play and score, definitely.”
The Anfield leg of the semi-final had originally been set to be the second fixture, but a COVID-19 outbreak at Liverpool saw last week’s game at Emirates Stadium postponed.
Klopp will now take his side down to north London next week knowing it is winner takes all for a place in the final against Chelsea.
“We weren’t creative enough. We didn’t do some things well enough but in the end it’s 0-0, half-time [in the tie],” he said.
“We don’t think this tie is over for us. We will give it a proper try next Thursday.”
Should they progress to a Wembley showdown with Chelsea, Liverpool – who face Brentford in the Premier League on Sunday – will be bidding to win the EFL Cup for a record ninth time.