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How much has Mohamed Salah struggled for Liverpool ahead of Man City title showdown?

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Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are still fighting on three fronts – having won the fourth – and an ability to effectively rotate his forward line has been fundamental to sustaining the challenge in all the relevant competitions.

But if there was one concern from what was a more than satisfactory 3-1 victory away at Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek, it was that one of those attackers appears to have lost form at exactly the wrong time.

The 29-year-old has been known for his goalscoring records – including becoming the highest-scoring African player in Premier League history – rather than his struggles in front of goal since joining the Reds.

Mohamed Salah has not scored from open play since February 19 in the win against Norwich

Mohamed Salah has not scored from open play since February 19 in the win against Norwich

Jurgen Klopp insists he is not worried by the Egyptian's form despite struggles in front of goal

Jurgen Klopp insists he is not worried by the Egyptian’s form despite struggles in front of goal

But after fluffing his lines in Portugal once more on Tuesday night, the Egyptian extended his goalless streak from open play which has been running since February 19 against Norwich.  

The three goals that have followed since, against Leeds (two) and Brighton, all came from the penalty spot, the last at the Amex Stadium being on March 12.

Heading further back, Salah has only netted three goals that were not penalties since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations as a runner-up following Egypt’s defeat by Senegal in the final.

The former Roma star has clearly experienced a whole range of emotions over the course of the season, from the lows of successive defeats by Senegal – the second meaning Egypt will not be at the World Cup – to the highs of being part of a resurgent Liverpool launching a title challenge.

Salah has gone through the range of emotions with Egypt missing out on the AFCON title and the World Cup

Salah has gone through the range of emotions with Egypt missing out on the AFCON title and the World Cup

But right now the overwhelming feeling around Salah’s game is one of uncertainty in front of goal, not that Klopp seems worried. 

‘Each player in that situation wants to score, and obviously with all the stories around, it’s clear Mo wants to score as well, especially in this moment but it’s all fine,’ Klopp said.

‘It’s a tough period, both boys came back from Africa, it’s really not easy, massive pressure on their shoulders, both have to solve it for their countries. Their managers were part of that as well, to put it on them.

‘I think now he needs time to settle, that’s all. An important game for Mo and Sadio [Mane] tonight, one could score the other one unfortunately not, but everything will be fine.’

Liverpool fans will hope the German will not have to repeat those words following Sunday’s crunch Premier League showdown against title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. 

Man City star Raheem Sterling

Colombian star Luis Diaz

Sportsmail compares his stats since February 20 to Raheem Sterling (left) and Luis Diaz

Salah stole the show with a brilliant individual strike against the top-flight champions in their Anfield clash earlier in the season, and now they need him more than ever to rediscover that brilliance.

So how bad has his form been since mid-February in comparison to two players who many would agree have excelled in recent weeks in his club team-mate Luis Diaz and rival Raheem Sterling?

Well, as it turns out, his three goals is better than Diaz and Sterling, with the Colombian having played a game more and the England star three games fewer, although again penalties have to be taken into account.

The statistics however do appear to suggest the Egyptian is still doing all the right things and getting into the right positions, but is simply unable to currently add the crucial finishing touches.

The three goals that have followed since February 20, against Leeds (two) and Brighton (above), all came from the penalty spot

The three goals that have followed since February 20, against Leeds (two) and Brighton (above), all came from the penalty spot

Salah has had the most shots (35) of any of the three players, some 13 more than Diaz who has played a game more. Of those 35 efforts at goal, 26 of them have been inside the box.

Crucially however, just 12 of those shots on goal have been on target, just three more than the number his Colombian team-mate has managed. Unsurprisingly his conversion rate is therefore the lowest of the trio, with Sterling’s 11.1 the highest while Diaz’s 9.1 also beats Salah’s 8.6.

Another barometer which highlights Salah’s recent tendency to be played through but not convert is demonstrated by the fact he has only scored three of the 10 big chances that have come his way since February 20. 

However, while that is a sub-par return for a player of his quality, Diaz’s big chance return only stands at around 33 per cent while Sterling’s stands at just 25 per cent.

No doubt too, a tad of misfortune is imbued in that failure to convert as ruthlessly as he has for the majority of his Reds career, having struck efforts against the woodwork on three occasions. 

The Egyptian has not had luck on his side either, having struck the woodwork three times

The Egyptian has not had luck on his side either, having struck the woodwork three times

Additionally, despite his recent goal drought from open play, the Liverpool star still has by far the best minutes to goal ratio, coming in at 203 minutes.

That is 70 minutes fewer than January signing Diaz, while Sterling – who admittedly from fewer games – is managing a goal once every 415 minutes.

There is a similarly stark contrast when comparing expected goals, which again measures the quality of a chance and the likelihood of scoring.

A high expected goals ratio does not always suggest a player should have scored, but in Salah’s case the chance created by Trent Alexander-Arnold against Benfica is one of many he would have been expected to take.  

It has clearly not been a one-off either, with Salah’s xG coming in at 6.9, more than double than Diaz at 3.4 and way above that of Sterling at 1.5.  

The hope however at Anfield is that the number manages to come down and that his red-hot form in front of goal returns when the Reds need it most.

To do that, Anfield staff will need to ensure Salah does not lose confidence in what he is doing well in the approach play.

His 68 touches in the opposition box at least hints at – although unable to fully confirm – a desire to keep probing irrespective of his current form in front of goal, again way above Diaz (46) and Sterling (30).

His dribble attempt and success rate are bettered by Diaz but it demonstrates he is still able to put defenders on edge with his sudden change of pace and instant finishing ability.

Arguably the best example of that was his outstanding solo goal against Pep Guardiola’s men which showed poise, strength and supreme quality in abundance.

‘He is playing for the team and if you look against Manchester City, the goal he scored was absolutely incredible. Not just for the skill. But two or three years ago Mo Salah would not kick with his right foot,’ Ian Rush told Sportsmail in the week after Salah’s goal.

But Salah showed his quality in the reverse fixture against Man City with a stunning solo goal

But Salah showed his quality in the reverse fixture against Man City with a stunning solo goal

‘But that goal against Manchester City was with his right foot and he has learned from that. Defenders normally would take him down his right-hand side because he would not shoot and on his left he can do anything.

‘But defenders now are worrying whether they should go to the right or left of him and that is why he has improved his game.’

Fast forward six months and the only narrative that has remained the same is that there is still uncertainty over whether he will agree a new deal at the Reds, albeit progress does seem to have been made.

He needs a goal more than ever, and arguably the most important three points of the season are up for grabs at a ground where Liverpool have not won in the Premier League since November 2015. 

But Salah has come good for the Reds when it has mattered most over the years and now it is time for him to help his side take the advantage in the title race by putting his blip in form behind him and netting in the biggest game of the season to date. 

The Reds will hope Salah can put recent disappointments behind him to lead their title charge

The Reds will hope Salah can put recent disappointments behind him to lead their title charge

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