Richard Buxton: Reds need Salah on the field
Twice in four days, Klopp has seen the folly of withdrawing his talisman as WBA and Roma claw back goals
Mohamed Salah has put Liverpool on a level playing field with Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Another spellbinding display from the Egyptian in the Reds' Champions League semi-final first-leg win over AS Roma yesterday morning (Singapore time) confirmed what many had suspected.
He is already among equals with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in more ways than one; world class, comfortably in the same bracket as the mercurial pair on the current evidence.
It also reaffirmed that three of Europe's footballing heavyweights are now one-man teams.
Ronaldo is often called upon to rescue Real while Messi routinely bails out Barca, but Salah currently provides Liverpool more than just a warranty of face-saving goals. Remove him from their front line, even for a matter of moments, and it often carries drastic consequences.
For a second time in four days, Juergen Klopp paid the price for withdrawing the 25-year-old with two goals needlessly conceded in swift succession. Roma were gifted an unlikely lifeline from a 5-0 shellacking in the same way West Bromwich Albion were able to claw back a point.
There remains little in common between the Serie A giants and the Premier League's basement dwellers this season, but their ability to capitalise on Liverpool at their most vulnerable was neither a stroke of fortune or coincidence; it was a self-inflicted wound.
Klopp has already seen the impact having Salah on opposing sides of the touchline has on his side. With him, they swagger to victory, even on the rare occasions that the one-time Chelsea misfit has not broken further records by bolstering his ever-growing goal tally.
In the Champions League alone, however, his substitution in successive games against Sevilla saw a flawless group- stage record surrendered within minutes of his withdrawal.
Salah offers something that Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and even Steven Gerrard all failed to deliver consistently in their spells at Anfield.
Ordinary players have often appeared invincible in the on-field presence of Salah. Essentially, he has has become Liverpool's very own answer to the Nou Camp's brand of "Messidependencia".
Comparisons with the Barcelona talisman's influence are more appropriate than Ronaldo's single-handed heroics at Real. Where the Ballon d'Or holder shoulders the burden of an entire team, Messi and Salah both have strike partners who are capable of helping lighten the load.
Yet their respective clubs are seemingly lost without their input, no matter how minor it proves. In a sport determined by fine margins, Salah and Messi offer the extra inches required.
Liverpool will need every morsel of their forward's flair in next week's return leg. Roma have form in overturning a three-goal deficit and their subduing of Argentina's captain should serve as a warning shot to Klopp that he cannot take a 5-2 scoreline for granted.
Keeping Salah and the rest of Liverpool's attacking brood threatens to be easier said than done for the Italians in their own backyard, but Klopp's own personal battle is far greater.
He must avoid being risk-averse with Salah at the Stadio Olimpico until victory is assured. Failing to do so could see a place in the Champions League final slip through his hands.