Diogo Jota made his first start last time out after returning from his “weird” calf injury against Everton previously.
The Portuguese striker spoke to Liverpoolfc.com about the frustrations inherent in an unexpectedly long injury absence while the team was struggling — and in how he hopes to contribute for the rest of the season.
Jota traced the strange course of his injury and return following Liverpool’s frustrating draw away at Crystal Palace:
It was just over four months since I played Man City at home, that was my last game, so I had to admit it felt strange — I was not used to playing Premier League anymore.
But I felt good during the game, I had a couple of chances in the box and around, I just need to get my certainty back and I think that will come with more minutes and hopefully [I can] help the team with goals and assists.
I had a strange calf injury. They said to me they hadn’t seen it before, most of the people, so we needed to ask for the help of some specialists as well to try to get over it, and of course to give it a bit more time because of the complexity and just to be safe.
But yeah, it was very hard, a long time. The results, to be honest, didn’t help as well so it was very frustrating to see things happening and not be able to help in any way, well, apart from the dressing room talks but [not] on the field.
But yeah, it’s over now, I am back and I want to finish the season available to start with and then obviously if I can help, even better.
He would have been happy to start for Liverpool against Palace, even if the result itself was largely disappointing:
Well, it’s in the past already, we are truly focused now on Wolves. Obviously it was not the result we all wanted but I think we just need to take the positives out: a clean sheet, that is a really important factor, away from home it is not easy and it was the third in a row and I truly believe that if we keep that for Wednesday we will get the three points.
...Adding points is always better than staying with the same [amount] that we had before the game, so obviously we wanted three points but after the Champions League game as well, playing away, Crystal Palace away is never an easy ground, so it’s hard but one point - it’s one more.
The disappointing result away at Selhurst Park is unfortunately not an anomaly in a frustrating season — which Jota has largely witnessed alongside fans, unable to make an impact:
Yeah, it’s been a very hard season, mentally for me especially, and of course on the field with the results we have had, nothing is going our way, let’s say it like that. But we need to try to do something and there is still a lot to play for - there is a place to fight for in the league and to give next season already a better shape because we all know how important it is to be involved in the Champions League. So, I think that’s crucial that this season we try to do our best to be there.
Despite the frustration generally, Jota spoke on the positivity that comes from players returning to fitness:
Yeah, it’s always helpful. When you need to play all the games because we don’t have any more options, it’s not easy. We play at a high level, we play at a high intensity as well, so I think it’s good to have competition. Everyone feels on their toes, we know that we can give our best because maybe we don’t have to play the full game because we have other options and I think that gives everyone a better momentum and a better feeling about the games. Now we have still a lot to play for in my opinion and our next one is on Wednesday.
Jota himself has much to play for personally, as Liverpool face his former team, who he has struggled against in the past wearing a Red shirt — though Wolves themselves are in the midst of a troubling spell of form:
Yes, I believe they will stay up - I just hope it is not with our help [on Wednesday]. They beat us already in the league with a great result for them and we played Wolves already three times this season, this will be the fourth time, so we are used to each other, let’s say, already. I know the way they can compete and it’s really important that we avoid their confidence going up because in the end this is the Premier League and everybody can beat everybody.
Liverpool look to push on domestically facing both Wolves and Manchester United at home this week, and Jota emphasizes the importance of putting points on the board:
Yeah, we all know that the results we had in the Premier League especially so far this season are much better at home, because the fans are behind us [and] supporting. I think the Anfield effect also has a big influence on the opponents’ team and I think with our help on the pitch as well we can create a good atmosphere that helps Liverpool take the three points.
He returned from injury against Everton, and has made an impact though has not yet managed his first post-injury goal — which is something to look forward to:
Yeah, I hope so. It was a very special moment when I came back from injury against Everton - I really felt blessed to have that moment when I first stepped on the pitch. I know they [the supporters] like me and hopefully I can deliver on the pitch.