Suarez set for another frosty Anfield welcome with Salah undoubted king of the Kop

By Sports Desk November 03, 2021

Luis Suarez has appeared 67 times at Anfield. On Wednesday, with Atletico Madrid, that will become 68. The former Liverpool favourite will hope this is nothing like his last visit.

Anfield outing #67 – Suarez's first not in Liverpool colours – saw the striker's Barcelona side sensationally beaten 4-0 in 2019, crashing out of the Champions League despite a 3-0 home win in the first leg of their semi-final.

Suarez, who had passionately celebrated his Camp Nou goal, was jeered with each of his 31 touches on Merseyside, starting from the very first second when he took the kick-off.

The Uruguay great later described himself as "so sad" to get such a reaction, but he will surely again this week be greeted with a hostile reception entirely out of keeping with the adoration afforded Liverpool's latest leading man, Mohamed Salah.

Salah was in the stands when Suarez returned back in 2019, missing a Champions League match for the only time in his Liverpool career to date due to concussion. Divock Origi was the hero instead.

 

Since then, though, the 'Egyptian King' has firmly laid to rest any claim Suarez had to being the Reds' greatest modern forward.

According to Jurgen Klopp and several others, Salah is now the best player in the world – and Liverpool supporters will revel seeing him prove it against Suarez's Atletico.

Two standout seasons

There were several similarities between the 2013-14 season of Suarez and Salah's 2017-18 campaign, as each inspired Liverpool to the cusp of history.

On both occasions, the individual errors of team-mates – Steven Gerrard against Chelsea in the Premier League, Loris Karius versus Real Madrid in the Champions League – left the superstar forwards agonisingly short of the finish line.

Suarez had scored an outstanding 31 goals that year – all in the Premier League, matching the 38-game benchmark that belonged jointly to Alan Shearer (1995-96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08).

Like so many standards Suarez set, though, Salah reached and then surpassed that mark four years later.

Salah had 30 goals by Valentine's Day, becoming the first Liverpool player to tally as many in a season since Suarez, but then kicked on from there.

His four goals in a single game against Watford the following month again made him the first Reds star to celebrate such a haul this side of Suarez (versus Norwich City in December 2013).

Salah finished with a new record 32 league goals among an astonishing 43 in all competitions, joining Suarez in scooping the PFA Player of the Year award – the sixth and seventh Liverpool players to be recognised.

Crucially, too, whereas the 2013-14 season was Suarez's last at Anfield, 2017-18 was merely the first of many for Salah, who has moved well clear of his fellow Kop icon as a result.

Salah on track again

While Salah has not come close to that 43-goal total again – at least until now – he has maintained a high level throughout his Liverpool career.

Only in 2019-20 did the forward fail to net 20 times in the Premier League, and Klopp's men won the title that year.

But Salah's current form is hinting at the sort of season that would blow away his own previous performance, let alone Suarez's.

Going into the game against Atleti, Salah has 15 goals and six assists in just 13 appearances this season.

His run of scoring in 10 straight games in all competitions – a feat never previously achieved by a Liverpool player – ended in Saturday's draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, but the Egypt international still provided an assist for Jordan Henderson. This sequence of goal involvements in 11 matches in a row is the best of Salah's Reds career.

By comparison, Suarez never scored in more than five successive appearances – also his best run of goals and assists.

 

Salah has never been better and enters the Atleti match one shy of Gerrard's record of 14 home goals in the European Cup. Due to the timing of his departure for Barca, Suarez never even played a Champions League game for Liverpool, although he did win the competition in his first season at Camp Nou.

Whether on Wednesday or later in the season, that Anfield honour will surely soon belong to Salah, but it is not yet out of the question that he could follow Suarez in leaving Liverpool before the club might hope.

There are now less than two years to run on Salah's Reds contract and, as Europe's premier performer, he is in complete control of his destiny.

An ear towards the Liverpool fans when Suarez gets the ball this week might inform Salah of the worth of staying put, though. There are undoubtedly more records still to break, too.

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