Liverpool's Salah held back this season by shoulder injury from UCL final - Klopp

LIVERPOOL, England -- Mohamed Salah's slow start to the season was down to the forward still feeling the shoulder injury caused by Sergio Ramos' challenge in the Champions League final, according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The Egypt international -- who was ranked at No. 7 among the world's forward's in the 2018 ESPN FC 100 -- opened the 2018-19 season with just three goals in the first nine matches, but has recaptured his goal-scoring touch of the previous campaign and has 14 goals in all competitions.

His manager feels Salah's return to peak fitness also coincides with the forward becoming more suited to a new role in Liverpool's system.

"He had to adapt a bit to a slightly different position. Not that different, but slightly. We need his link-up play," Klopp told a news conference on Monday.

"He still has that desire and the speed in the first few yards, which is impressive. And, of course, he is a very important part of our finishing situations.

"He is young enough to involve a lot more things in his game. It's not just speed, it's not just finishing, it's keeping the ball.

"But you need your body for that and that was the only problem with Mo at the beginning of the season. Part of his body was still not perfect.

"If you work in an office and your shoulder is not 100 percent, it's OK. If you are a professional football player, it just takes 10-15 percent away.

"He's still a world class player but we knew we had to wait until the moment when everything was fine again."

Liverpool sit four points clear at the top of the Premier League at Christmas, with each of the last four sides to be top on Dec. 25 going on to become champions.

The Reds welcome Newcastle United and former manager Rafa Benitez to Anfield on Boxing Day.

"We did really well so far and we have to do even better from now on, because you can see all the other teams are doing really well," Klopp said. "That's the challenge for us, to be focused and as successful as possible.

"In this moment it looks quite positive, but only in this moment, we have to make sure it stays like this.

"I think this club, the supporters, are famous for not forgetting people who did an outstanding job here. Not only Rafa but especially Rafa as he is still in the Premier League and still lives in the area. He became a proper Scouser, which is quite rare for a Spanish guy.

"I like him. He's a fantastic manager and a really good person, so I am happy for him that he always gets this kind of reception. It's nice, it shows that Liverpudlians don't forget easily. Good for him."

With the January transfer window on the horizon, Klopp reiterated that Liverpool remain open to midseason acquisitions should circumstances require them.

"Very happy with what I've got, but we don't know," he said. "The only little bit why I keep the door open is because if something happens then we need to have a look.

"There is a monstrous number of games coming, but as long as we can react then it's all good. But if something dramatically changes then we need to have a look.

"If nothing happens then I would say we will not do anything."