Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said “good performances never give me a headache” as Diogo Jota pressed his claims for a starting place with a Champions League hat-trick at Atalanta.
Jota, 23, was selected ahead of Roberto Firmino and took his tally to seven goals in 10 games as the Reds won 5-0.
Klopp said: “It is important we have more than 11 [to choose from] and tonight Diogo played a super game.”
Champions Liverpool face Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Reds are top of the Premier League, while Pep Guardiola’s side are in 10th place, five points adrift of their rivals but having played a game fewer.
Klopp added: “For tonight, that was the decision – it was clear it made sense for tonight, first of all, to use the good shape Diogo is in.
“And because of the way Atalanta play and defend, it made sense that the skillset of Diogo helps.”
Jota joined for £41m from Wolves and said he was “playing in the best team of my career so far”.
He told BT Sport: “I don’t know if it’s the best moment of my career but obviously scoring goals is my way of playing football. I’m happy with this, a great win away in Champions League, a good moment and a good night.”
Asked what they can take into Sunday’s game against City, Jota said: “Well five goals, that doesn’t happen so often to score five in one game. The clean sheet as well – if we can keep a clean sheet against City, we will win the game.”
Jota puts pressure on Firmino
A quick look at the numbers show how impressive Jota’s start has been at Liverpool:
- Only Mohamed Salah (nine) has got more goals than Jota (seven) for Liverpool this season.
- Jota is only the second player to score in his first two starts in the Champions League for Liverpool, following Robbie Keane in 2008.
- He became only the 10th player to score a hat-trick for Liverpool in the European Cup/Champions League.
Having largely been used as a substitute so far, Jota was given a start against Atalanta, with Brazil international Firmino having scored just one goal in 10 games this season.
“Good performances never give me a headache,” said Klopp. “But the world is sometimes a really bad place that in the moment when somebody is shining, we speak immediately about another player who played for us, it feels like, 500 games in a row.
“We would not even be in the Champions League if Firmino were not with us. Yet immediately I have to explain why he is not in the team.
“He will be in the team and for a lot of people in the world, if you would ask them: ‘What makes Liverpool some days special?’ I would say the way Bobby Firmino is playing – because on a good day he is not [possible] to defend [against].”
Analysis – ‘A perfect night’
Former Reds defender Stephen Warnock said Jota is “hot” at the moment and with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane almost certain to start Sunday’s Premier League match at Manchester City, it would be “very, very hard to leave him out”.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It changes the style of play. You see the pace Jota has. Jota brings more directness to it, while Firmino is more clever. Fans have been critical of him slowing attacks down too much.
“They improve when Jota comes into the team at the moment. He has been impressive; he has been called a pressing monster.
“It shows his confidence. He has seen this as an opportunity of a lifetime. He believes he can take Liverpool to the next level and he has the trust of the players around him as well. Firmino will play at the weekend but it gives the option and a strong option.
“Jota is hot at the moment. It is very, very hard to leave him out against Manchester City. It looks inevitable that will be his forward three but you just never know with Jurgen Klopp.”
Ex-Reds striker Peter Crouch called it a “perfect night” for Liverpool, while former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport that the Reds “are the team to beat”.
Salah hits the top
Meanwhile, Egyptian forward Salah took his Liverpool goalscoring record to a remarkable 103 goals in 164 games since joining from Roma in 2017.
His second-half strike was also his 21st in the Champions League for the Reds, drawing level with former captain Steven Gerrard as the leading scorer for Liverpool in the competition.
Klopp added: “I don’t think anyone could’ve defended against Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Diogo Jota so it wasn’t about the tactics or our system it was about the team.”