Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists Mohamed Salah is only human and cannot be expected to lead the attack every game.
Against Benfica on Wednesday the Egypt international was rested for only the third time, excluding cup matches, this season – and one of those occasions was just a couple of days after he had returned as a defeated Africa Cup of Nations finalist.
Salah, who came off the bench just before the hour in the Champions League quarter-final second leg 3-3 draw which secured a last-four spot against Villarreal, has played 49 matches for club and country already.
There is the possibility he could be required for another 12 if Liverpool maintain their progress in Europe and the FA Cup, where they face Manchester City in a semi-final on Saturday, and that means his time will still have to be managed.
Klopp said the decision to leave him out against Benfica had nothing to do with his form, with Salah not having scored from open play since mid-February.
“The reason for Mo not starting was easy. Even if Mo had scored four goals in the last game he wouldn’t have started yesterday,” said Klopp.
“It’s nothing to do with anything, there’s no story to make, it was just a necessity.
“Mo played (for Egypt) in January and February six times 120 minutes so now we can just close our eyes and say ‘Who cares?’.
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“Even he is just a human being and it was clear there would be games when he can’t start, games where we take him off, and he hates that. But it’s clear.
“People might think what I’m actually doing the whole day is to think about these things but when these things are really a necessity to do it is clearly the case.
“I think the (Benfica) game proved it was 100 percent right to change seven times.”
Only goalkeeper Alisson Becker and centre-back Virgil Van Dijk have played more Premier League minutes than Salah this season, and he missed three matches in January and February because of his international commitments – which saw him play seven full games including four successive extra-time periods.
The super-fit 29-year-old’s workload has been huge this season but Klopp does not believe that is now starting to catch up with him in terms of the slowing rate of his goalscoring.
“Nothing conscious. It’s easy: if you sleep four nights in the week only two hours, you think ‘I’m fine’ until the fifth day and you get a knock,” he added.
“They (the players) are completely in a tunnel, they want to play, play, play, play, be successful and win everything. That’s why I don’t ask players ‘Are you tired?’.
“I have to make decisions without talking a lot, just make it and deal with it and go from there. My responsibility, right or wrong.
“Yesterday we could rest seven players who started three days before and that’s great. Seven more players got some rhythm.”
Salah is certain to return to the starting line-up for the Wembley encounter against City.
After last Sunday’s 2-2 draw, the second between them this season, when his side were poor in the first half Klopp is hoping to see a better version this weekend.
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“I think City was really strong last week and we were not at our best, so I would like to see a game where we are at our best as well. That would be interesting,” said the Reds boss.
“Let’s give it a try. Maybe that would be a surprise, all of a sudden we are good.
“The boys did a lot of good stuff in the game but I really think in a couple of positions we are able to perform on a completely different level and I think we should give that a try.
“And it’s a cup game, a one-off, if it’s 2-2 again, it’s 120 minutes and if it stays like that it’s penalties and that would be really crazy if it goes all the way.”