Liverpool (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp is hopeful Mohamed Salah will be ready for Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Manchester City after the Egypt winger missed the Merseyside derby with a groin injury.
Salah, who has scored 38 club goals this season, was left out of the squad for the 0-0 draw at Everton on Saturday in order to give him every chance to recover.
Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings were given rare starts in the Premier League as Klopp made five changes to his side with the aim of keeping players fresh for the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Solanke failed to take two good chances in the first 16 minutes, while Ings -– making his first league start since October 2015 –- struggled to make an impact, with his most notable contribution being a second-half confrontation with Everton defender Seamus Coleman.
Reds boss Klopp, who restricted Roberto Firmino to a 16-minute appearance as a substitute, indicated that there was never any likelihood of Salah facing Everton after he limped off during last Wednesday’s 3-0 quarter-final first leg win over City.
“We didn’t even think about it. I don’t have a ticker on how he feels. Everybody thinks he’ll be ready for Tuesday but at the end we will see,” he said.
In addition to fielding Solanke and Ings, Klopp also gave a first start in 11 months to right-back Nathaniel Clyne, who has battled back to fitness following a back problem, and played central defender Ragnar Klavan at left-back.
Liverpool looked disjointed as a result, but still enjoyed the majority of possession as they extended their unbeaten run in Merseyside derby matches to 17 games.
Solanke headed wide from an early James Milner delivery, and then, when Coleman made a mess of clearing Clyne’s cross on the run, the striker could only steer his first-time shot straight at keeper Jordan Pickford, who beat the ball away.
– Derby stalemate –
Pickford, watched by England manager Gareth Southgate, increased his chances of being his country’s first-choice goalkeeper at this year’s World Cup with a solid performance.
For Klopp, whose side remain third in the Premier League, the priority in such a busy week was to avoid defeat, injuries and disciplinary trouble –- which they did.
Yet they could have been beaten as Everton increased their pressure in the final 10 minutes, as Cenk Tosun headed Theo Walcott’s cross wide and Dominic Calvert-Lewin steered over with only goalkeeper Loris Karius to beat.
“We’re happy,” said Klopp. “We were better for most of the game and then in the last few minutes there were two very exciting moments in our box, which is never a good sign, but I think until then, we controlled the game.
“We played the game we wanted to play. We were not here to play a wild derby. So it was difficult for Everton to get the game they wanted.”
Everton are comfortable in mid-table but were uninspired and unadventurous until the final minutes, although Karius did have to make a superb first-half save to tip away Yannick Bolasie’s bending shot.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney continues to struggle for form, and was captured by television cameras mouthing obscenities in frustration when he was substituted after 57 minutes.
Everton manager Sam Allardyce said: “As talented as Wayne is and as good as he is on the ball, we needed to get around the pitch a bit more.
“That’s the way the game goes, nobody is too big to come off.”