(Reuters) – Diogo Jota’s superb hat-trick lit up Liverpool’s 5-0 Champions League thrashing of Atalanta on Tuesday and served further notice to the club’s famed frontline that the Portuguese striker does not intend to play solely a supporting role.
Liverpool face Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday and it now seems almost unthinkable that Jota’s name will not be in the starting lineup.
That may have seemed unlikely at the start of the season when Liverpool signed the 23-year-old from Wolverhampton Wanderers to provide competition to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, who had developed into one of the most feared attacking trios in football.
With Firmino’s form under the spotlight after an underwhelming start to the campaign, Jota slotted in alongside Salah and Mane against Atalanta and put on a clinical display of finishing before being replaced by Firmino in the 65th minute.
“I’m playing in the best team of my career so far, that’s for sure. I don’t know if it was my best moment, but obviously scoring goals is my way of playing football, so I’m really happy with it,” Jota told BT Sport.
Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool splashed a reported 41 million pounds ($54 million) to secure the signature of Jota, who scored 16 goals – nine of them in the Europa League – for Wolves last season.
He has already begun paying back that fee in earnest with seven goals in 10 games, and he tormented the Atalanta defence together with Mane and Salah.
“Obviously (they are) two world-class players, we all know their quality makes it easy for me to do my job because they are outstanding players,” he explained.
Jota is swiftly developing a taste for European competition having scored three hat-tricks in the Champions League and Europa League combined since the start of last season – the only player to have done so more than once.
With a trip to Manchester City to come on Sunday, the Portuguese picked the perfect moment to stake his claim to a starting spot.
“We have to recover, I think we have a day or two more to recover from that game and we will need it,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told BT Sport
“We will see who is available and who we can line up. City is a different team obviously, and we have to make sure that we are ready for that.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Toby Davis)
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