Mo Salah tests positive for COVID-19

The international break has not been kind to the Premier League champions – a long-term injury to Joe Gomez earlier in the week and now Salah contracting COVID is far from ideal.

Gomez has underwent surgery for a problem which is set to keep him out until the new year, but Salah’s loss is arguably just as detrimental, as the talisman is set to miss an important period for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Salah has been in fine form this season, scoring freely as Liverpool sit top of the Premier League table after eight games, as they seek to defend their title for the first time.

At this stage he remains in quarantine within the national team set-up and he will face further tests “during the coming hours”, with the Egyptian national team set to face Togo in back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers this week.

Salah was filmed at his brother’s wedding earlier this week, and it is entirely possible that this is the source of his positive test, given the restrictions currently applied in many parts of the world over crowded and closed-in social gatherings.

The forward, who has 8 goals in 8 games this season, will now face a period of quarantine before becoming available for selection again, meaning he is almost certain to miss the games against Leicester City and Atalanta in the coming weeks.

It couldn’t have came at a worse time for Liverpool, who have suffered countless blows through players picking up injuries on international duty in recent years. The news that there’s not another one until March will be music to their ears.

Diogo Jota looking like a Liverpool bargain

The Portugal international’s recent scoring spree persuaded Jurgen Klopp to start him ahead of Roberto Firmino in Bergamo and he fully justified the manager’s decision with only the club’s fourth European treble away from Anfield.

He is in elevated company as Michael Owen (two) and Sadio Mane scored the others and what he has achieved already since his move from Wolves in mid-September suggests there could be more to come.

Jota, who could have had a first-half hat-trick but squandered possibly his easiest chance in the second minute, has now scored for a fourth successive match.

He is only the second man to find the net in his first two Champions League appearances for the club, after Robbie Keane in 2008, and already has more goals for the club in 2020 (seven) than Firmino (five) despite having arrived less than two months ago.

Finally Klopp has someone to not only challenge his established front three of Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Mane – the latter pair also both scoring within a couple of minutes of each other at the start of the second half – but to improve the much-vaunted unit and his £41million transfer already looks good value.

Jota’s impressive performance allowed Liverpool to win their opening three group matches for the first time and they have already established a five-point lead at the halfway stage with two home matches to come next.

Early qualification would be a major boost for Klopp in this most congested of seasons as it would give him the chance to offer some much-needed respite to his major players.

With Manchester City up next in the Premier League on Sunday he even took the opportunity here, removing Jota, who sparked an injury scare by hobbling off, Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson from the fray with 25 minutes to go and later resting Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum – all likely to be key figures at the Etihad Stadium.

Joel Matip returned to the squad after a four-match absence but Klopp opted to hand 19-year-old Rhys Williams – who a year ago was playing for Kidderminster against Curzon Ashton in National League North – his full Champions League debut at centre-back with Joe Gomez against a side featuring eight players who reached last season’s quarter-finals.

It was the 36th different central defensive partnership Klopp has started during his five years at the club but there were no concerns in defence, even against a side who scored 98 goals in Serie A last season, with Jota running the hosts ragged at the other end.

Having shot too close to Marco Sportiello in only the second minute Jota did not make the same mistake twice in the 16th minute, dinking a shot past the goalkeeper after blindsiding Jose Luis Palomino chasing Alexander-Arnold’s through-ball.

Mane and Curtis Jones had already been denied by Sportiello but he was no match for Jota in the 33rd minute when Gomez picked out his team-mate with a long diagonal ball.

The first touch with his left foot brought the ball inside onto his right and he dispatched a shot inside Sportiello’s right-hand post, prompting Klopp to bellow “What a finish, Diogo” from the technical area.

Mane saw his goalbound shot tipped around the post but two goals within four minutes of the start of the second half killed the hosts’ comeback hopes.

Salah’s half-pitch run to score from Jones’ pass when an Atalanta corner broke down was reminiscent of the one he scored against Arsenal in August 2019 and his 22nd European goal in 38 appearances drew him level with Owen in the club’s all-time list – only Steven Gerrard (41) has more.

Salah then turned provider for Mane to chip over Sportiello but Jota was in no mood to see his limelight stolen and ran onto Mane’s pass to round Sportiello and roll a shot into an empty net.

Duvan Zapata hit the inside of the post and forced Alisson Becker into two good saves but that sort of attacking threat was needed in the first half as the rookie Williams and Gomez had an unexpectedly comfortable night.

Klopp to leave Liverpool squad selection late

The Reds travel to Bergamo in northern Italy on Tuesday to take on the Serie A side who currently occupy second spot in Group D.

After an impressive maiden Champions League campaign last season Atalanta will be hoping to continue their European exploits this time around in the first ever competitive meeting between the two clubs.

The Italians will be buoyed by their attacking capabilities under boss Gian Piero Gasperini and will be hoping to capitalise on a Liverpool defence that needs patchwork.

Reds gaffer Jurgen Klopp has suggested he will leave it until the latest possible moment to decide his squad for the trip, with several players still battling for fitness.

The absence of van Dijk is no doubt a significant loss, but Joel Matip’s availability is also a major concern with it still uncertain if he will be able to play.

Nathaniel Phillips could be called upon to start a second game on the spin after impressing against West Ham at the weekend should Matip not be fit, with Joe Gomez the likely partner at the back.

Fabinho picked up a knock after filling in at centre half in recent weeks and is expected to be absent once again, although it’s more positive news for Thiago Alcantara who is closing in on a return and could even be involved against Atalanta.

Naby Keita, who hasn’t played since Liverpool’s 7-2 hammering by Aston Villa – will be assessed ahead of the trip, as will new boy Kostas Tsimikas.

Fellow fresh face Diogo Jota will be hoping his endeavours off the bench in the Premier League will have been enough to convince Jurgen Klopp to hand him a Champions League start, with Firmino the most likely of the front three to make way.

All in all some shuffling required for Jurgen Klopp in an important group game for Liverpool which could see them take a massive step to qualification for the knockout stages with victory.

Leicester land Belgium international Timothy Castagne

The 24-year-old will link up with Brendan Rodgers’ squad on his return from his country’s Nations League fixtures against Denmark and Iceland.

A statement on the club’s official website said: “Leicester City Football Club have agreed terms with Atalanta for the transfer of full-back Timothy Castagne, subject to Premier League and international clearance.

“The 24-year-old Belgian international has put pen to paper on a five-year deal with the Foxes and will link up with his new team-mates after the conclusion of the current international break.”

Castagne, who has signed for an undisclosed fee, has been capped seven times by Belgium and can operate in either full-back role.

He spent three seasons in Serie A after joining Atalanta from Belgian side Genk and helped the Italian club qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

The defender made six appearances on the European stage last season as Atalanta reached the quarter-finals before going out to beaten finalists Paris St Germain, and helped them finish third in the league for the second successive campaign, this time behind Juventus and Inter Milan.

A former youth international, he was handed his senior debut against Scotland in a friendly at Hampden Park in September 2018.