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Liverpool: Diogo Jota returns to Portugal to face Benfica in the form of his life

Red-hot Diogo Jota has become Liverpool’s star player after taking pressure off Mo Salah…

  • Diogo Jota is in the form of his life and has become pivotal to Liverpool’s attack
  • The Liverpool and Portugal attacker has scored four goals in his last five games
  • Jürgen Klopp’s side is in the quarterfinals of the Champions League at Benfica
  • Hosts will know Jota all too well from Portugal caps and his time with rivals Porto

Jurgen Klopp said Diogo Jota is ‘basically the player we thought he would be and a little better too’ after the Liverpool attacker scored his 20th goal of the season – his best goalscoring campaign.

The 25-year-old arrived on Merseyside less than two years ago with a degree of uncertainty about what role he would play.

Liverpool’s deadly headline three, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, had helped the Champions League and Premier League in back-to-back seasons, as well as World Cup glory for clubs.

Liverpool striker Diogo Jota has been pivotal to the club's impressive campaign thus far

Liverpool striker Diogo Jota has been pivotal to the club’s impressive campaign thus far

The Portuguese attacker has taken away the goal burden from Mohamed Salah (R) in recent weeks

The Portuguese attacker has taken away the goal burden from Mohamed Salah (R) in recent weeks

Would the Wolves man provide cover alone? Was it a transfer with an eye to the future? Or could he compete and break up the famous triumvirate?

As Klopp pointed out, Jota’s impact on Merseyside has been better than anyone associated with the Reds could have imagined.

The Portugal international has started 50 of his 70 appearances, scoring 33 goals. He scores a goal every 138 minutes on average, while Liverpool win 64 percent of the games when he plays.

Jota traded the Midlands for Merseyside in September 2020 in a £41m deal after being an integral part of an exciting Wolves side under Nuno Espirito Santo.

Mostly used out of bounds, Jota effortlessly combined speed and skill to fly past full-backs, but now he’s thriving as a striker at Anfield.

“It was always clear that Diogo is not a pure winger, Diogo is a striker who can play on the wing and defend the wing. Both wings, thank God,” Klopp said after Liverpool’s 10th league win.

Jota scored his 20th goal of the season last weekend in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Watford

Jota scored his 20th goal of the season last weekend in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Watford

It's his best scoring season as the striker has become a key part of the Reds' attack

It’s his best scoring season as the striker has become a key part of the Reds’ attack

“He played all three positions up front for us and always did very well.

“I’ve said it a few times: at Wolves he had another job and he did that job so well that we thought, we want him.”

Jota’s versatility in playing over the front three has enabled Klopp to give Salah, Mane and Firmino some much-needed breather, but the Portuguese’s style of play also offers Liverpool another attacking dimension.

With its low center of gravity, it creates excellent balance on the ball with its low center of gravity and can cover ground quickly.

Jota has scored four goals in his last five games, including this opener in the win over Arsenal

Jota has scored four goals in his last five games, including this opener in the win over Arsenal

Days later, Jota scored the winner for Liverpool in their FA Cup clash at Nottingham Forest

Days later, Jota scored the winner for Liverpool in their FA Cup clash at Nottingham Forest

In the center forward, Jota makes intelligent runs to avoid getting into a physical fight with bigger defenders, but it’s his knack for winning headers that stands out.

Nine of his 33 goals for the Reds were headers. He led Joe Gomez’s pinpoint cross for his 20th goal of the season last weekend.

When he takes on defenders head and shoulders above him for the most part, his instinct and timing to win the dogfights is impressive.

Jota has scored four goals in his last five games, while taking the burden off Mohamed Salah – who in fact has a meager run of just one goal in eight games.

The form of his life has seen the Portugal international rise to second place in the England top scorers list – six behind his team-mate.

Klopp praised the club’s number 20 and insisted that he is on his way to becoming a world-class striker.

Liverpool's next opponent Benfica will know Jota all too well from his 24 caps for Portugal

Liverpool’s next opponent Benfica will know Jota all too well from his 24 caps for Portugal

“Since he came in, he has improved a lot, that has a bit to do with his age, (but) he is growing step by step towards the role of a world-class top striker,” he added.

“He delivers quite consistently for Portugal, which is a tough job with all the attacking talent they have.”

Benfica, opponent of the quarter-finals of Liverpool’s Champions League, will know Jota’s talents all too well from his 24 caps for Portugal, in which he scored nine goals – and after playing a season for his rivals Porto before moving to England moved.

Jota was loaned to Portuguese side Atlético Madrid for the 2016/17 season. He scored in the 1-1 draw with Benfica, scoring nine goals and seven assists in 38 games.

The attacker learned his trade at the time, but has now been molded into a deadly assassin.

He has played a key role in what could be a historic season for Liverpool. The Reds have won 85 per cent of games when Jota found the back of the net – and his 21st goal won’t be far off.

DIOGO JOTA IN LIVERPOOL
apps 70
begins 50
minutes 4544
goals 33
assists 3
Min./Goal 138
Goals (left foot) 10
Goals (right footed) 14
Goals (led) 9
win% 64.30 percent
Win % on scores 85.20 percent

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