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Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said Diogo Jota is a crucial player for the Premier League leaders after the Portuguese forward returned from injury, as the squad prepares to lose Egypt captain Mohamed Salah to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Jota, 27, missed eight matches after sustaining a muscle injury during their 1-1 draw against Manchester City in November. He made a comeback on Tuesday, scoring in the 90th minute to send Liverpool to the top of the league with a 2-0 win at Burnley.

With midfield trio Thiago Alcantara, Stefan Bajcetic, Alexis Mac Allister, winger Ben Doak and defenders Andrew Robertson, Joel Matip and Kostas Tsimikas all sidelined due to injury, the return of Jota was a welcome sight for Klopp.

Liverpool are also set to lose Salah, the league’s second-highest goalscorer behind City’s Erling Haaland this season, when he departs for AFCON, which takes place from January 13 to February 11 in the Ivory Coast.

When asked what Jota’s finishing adds to the team, Klopp told reporters: “I love Jota, but he missed chances in the past as well. It’s the nature of the thing that we always ask for, always the players who are not involved and then all of a sudden, they think they can change the world.

“Diogo is an incredibly important player for us. Having him changed the whole dynamic. “

Liverpool need slice of luck amid injury crisis, says Klopp

The goal he scored today is the goal of a boy full of conviction.

Good technique, obviously, but full of conviction because he had no chance to create any kind of doubt in the last few weeks because he was in rehab.“

Liverpool next host Newcastle United at Anfield in the league on Jan. 1, followed by a trip to Arsenal for the third round of the FA Cup on Jan. 7.

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