It was probably a little surprising to see all three members of Liverpool’s front three come off at the same time at the 60 minute mark. This was made possible because of the five substitute rule in European football this season (The English clubs voted to revert back to three). The main reason as explained by Jürgen Klopp was that Sadio Mané had been nursing a dead leg for a few days now, although it is not expected to persist:
“Sadio has still since a few days a dead leg. In that area, it’s still painful but it’s not a problem. When he doesn’t play he puts ice on it.”
The decision to pull Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino off as well was influenced by the game becoming more open in the second half. Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri were the ones who stepped onto the pitch in their places:
“The game became pretty wild, we had to defend really altogether and we defend in a 4-5-1 which means both wingers have to be really involved in defending. And then in the moment there were incredibly big spaces for the counter attack. And we thought it’d make sense to bring their fresh legs because all three who came on are in really good shape, fresh, in a tricky, difficult game on a difficult pitch. That helps a lot. And you saw, they all really helped a lot. Takumi, in both directions, incredible between the lines, and Diogo is a machine, he can punish opponents in a one-on-one situation. We had these moments but we didn’t finish it off unfortunately but it’s completely fine.”
Jota and Minamino looked really lively, and were a threat to score with their graft and intelligent movement. Now that Liverpool has backup attacking options where the drop-off isn’t as drastic, we can expect Klopp to flex this new-found depth and play them fairly often, giving the front three some much-needed rest along the way.