Liverpool have announced that Portuguese attacker Diogo Jota will not feature at next month’s World Cup, due to an injury sustained in the Premier League win over Manchester City on Sunday.
While an exact timeframe for the 25-year-old’s absence has not been established, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp suggested the forward was set to be out of contention for a “long time”.
Jota missed the start of the Premier League season with a hamstring injury before returning to the bench in the Merseyside derby draw with Everton on September 3rd.
He featured for his national side during the international break, finding the net in a 4-0 win over Czech Republic, but having left the Anfield pitch on a stretcher in the final moments of the 1-0 win over the champions this Sunday, the Reds man will be forced to sit out the winter action.
“We talk about months,” said the German, describing it as “a pretty serious injury of the calf muscle”.
“Sad news for the boy, us and Portugal.”
Liverpool are next in action on Wednesday evening as they welcome West Ham to Anfield, desperate to push on from their victory over Mancunian opposition and close the gap on leaders Arsenal, which stands currently at 14 points - more than the Reds’ present total of 13 from nine games.
|What||Liverpool v West Ham|
|When||19:30, Wednesday 19th October 2022|
|How to watch||Amazon Prime|
|Odds||Liverpool 2/5, Draw 4/1, West Ham 6/1|
Rooted outside the European berths in eighth before the midweek round of fixtures, Klopp’s men have been blighted by inconsistency so far this term, having already lost as many games - two - as they did through the whole of the 2021/22 campaign.
Their four draws outnumber their wins, leaving them as 20/1 longshots for the title as Arsenal take the fight to firm favourites Manchester City.
And while a respectable goal difference of +9 might suggest that finding the net is not the issue at the heart of Liverpool’s struggles, their problems are laid bare when you remove the anomalous nine-goal mauling of an off-colour Bournemouth from the statistics.
Aside from that thrashing, the Reds have scored only 12 times in eight league contests, with Jota yet to contribute to that total from four appearances amid fitness issues.
The Portugal winger was a key cog in the Anfield wheel last term, hitting 15 goals in 35 Premier League appearances, to add to three in the EFL Cup, two in the FA Cup and another in the Champions League, and his lack of game time this season is reflected starkly in his side’s stunted output.
The injury comes at a bitterly frustrating time for both player and club, as the City clash capped a run of ten successive appearances for Liverpool and Portugal for Jota. His trio of assists in the 7-1 demolition of Rangers at Ibrox, along with his hand in Roberto Firmino’s second-half equaliser in the loss at Arsenal, showcased the extent of his capabilities when fully fit and on form, albeit only briefly.
And though the Reds’ place in the last 16 of the Champions League can be assured by just a draw from their remaining two group fixtures – with Liverpool at 10/3 to reach a second final on the trot following this May’s defeat to Real Madrid – the loss of Jota for an extended period of time will be keenly felt in league action.
Though Nottingham Forest away and Leeds at home should allow Klopp’s charges time to adapt to Jota’s injury, a major test comes on November 6th in the form of a trip to Tottenham, just five days after their final European appointment at group leaders Napoli.
Derby County then visit Anfield just three days later, as do Southampton after another three days in a congested pre-international break calendar. Rotation will be the key to fighting on three fronts, and Liverpool crucially have one attacking option fewer at their disposal for a period likely to make or break their season.
Jota’s absence from the World Cup will also hit Portugal, who are bidding to win the tournament for the first time. The Selecao are among the favourites to lift the famous trophy in Qatar this December, priced at 14/1.
But they must now prepare for their Group H campaign without the services of the Liverpool star, who has ten goals for his country. He featured in every game of Portugal’s run to the last 16 of Euro 2020, where their title defence was ended by Belgium.
After a final warm-up match against Nigeria on November 17th, Fernando Santos’ men kick off their World Cup exactly a week later against Ghana and are at to open with victory against the 2010 quarter-finalists.
Their toughest tasks come second and third, with Uruguay up next on November 28th, before Hyung-Min Son and South Korea put them to task in the final group encounter.