Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has backed under-scrutiny forward Mohamed Salah to deal with the pressure he is facing.
The Egypt international scored 44 times in his maiden season at the club but has not looked close to replicating that form this time around.
He has scored three goals so far, only one fewer than at the same stage 12 months ago when he did not really begin his scoring spree until this time of the season.
Wijnaldum said they had been teasing Salah about his supposed struggles, jokingly telling him he has to score more.
“I said ‘Mo, it’s not only one year’ and he said ‘You’re right!’,” he said, ahead of the Champions League tie against Napoli in Italy.
“We were joking but if someone can deal with pressure, it is Mo.
“Last season he had pressure when people were saying he had to be the top scorer of the league.
“We told him he couldn’t let anyone catch him. When he was on 18 goals, he said ‘In my head, I can get 32’.
“Mo is not someone that is scared of pressure. He embraces the pressure. He knows that he can do it.”
Klopp has already said no-one at the club expects Salah to reproduce his amazing form this season and Wijnaldum says the players all support him.
The Dutchman said the forward had contributed more to the season than just goals.
“It’s easy to say ‘Now we have Mo, we are used to him scoring goals’,” he added.
“Maybe last season he didn’t have some good games but he always scored goals and people see that and they say ‘Ah! He played good!’.
“But now he is not scoring and people are saying he is in a difficult situation. I don’t see it that way.
“He still works hard, he still creates chances. I think against Chelsea, he had three chances where he could score a goal. He could have given an assist to Roberto.
“I don’t think it’s that bad, put it that way.
“I’ve told him that he’s got to get more hat-tricks. He’s had enough of scoring twos, he has to get three.
“I told him ‘Mo, you are a top player; if you look at Messi and Ronaldo, they score a lot of hat-tricks – you have to do the same if you want to compete with them’.”
Nikola Vlasic seized on an error by Toni Kroos in the second minute to grab what turned out to be the only goal of the game as the increasingly desperate Spaniards clattered the woodwork three times in response.
It continued a worrying run for Lopetegui, whose side were beaten 3-0 by Sevilla in La Liga last Wednesday before also failing to find the net in Saturday’s derby draw with Atletico.
Lopetegui told a press conference: “We must keep generating chances and we will be more successful – I have no doubt that we will start to score and the victories will come.
“We have failed to take any of the countless chances we have had. We have tried from everywhere and from that point of view we have had bad luck.”
The plight of Real’s much-changed team, with Gareth Bale injured and Sergio Ramos left in Spain to rest, is a long way from the optimism which greeted their opening 3-0 group win over Roma.
But Lopetegui added: “Ten days ago we beat Roma and we weren’t invincible. Now we are not so bad. There are just some situations in football that we have to reverse.”
Jose Mourinho showed uncharacteristic restraint after his side’s poor run continued on a night when Manchester United great Paul Scholes labelled him an embarrassment to the club.
After being held at home by Wolves, knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Derby and humbled at West Ham, there would be no return to winning ways when Valencia arrived in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
Few would argue that the Spaniards did not deserve to leave Old Trafford with a 0-0 draw as Mourinho went four consecutive home games without a victory for the first time as a manager.
It keeps the pressure on the Portuguese, who was the subject of a scathing pre-match attack by former United midfielder Scholes.
“I am sat here actually surprised he survived after Saturday, the performance was that bad,” he said on BT Sport, referring to the 3-1 humbling at West Ham.
“He’s coming out in press conferences and constantly having a go at players, he is having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants.
“I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he is embarrassing the club.”
Scholes shot from the hip but Mourinho did not return fire after the game.
“I don’t need to know what he said,” Mourinho said. “He says what he wants to say. I’m not interested. Honestly, I’m not interested.
“Freedom of speech, free country, you can say what you want.”
Mourinho returned to that theme when asked about the Old Trafford faithful, who chanted “attack, attack, attack”, cheered under-performing Alexis Sanchez’s withdrawal and booed at full-time.
“Freedom of speech, especially Manchester United fans that I respect 200 per cent,” he added.
Mourinho does not normally mind expressing his opinion, having questioned how much some of his players cared about United’s poor form on the eve of the match.
Such comments are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the outspoken manager, but he was unusually controlled when asked if the performance against Valencia was due to dented confidence.
“I think there are things that is difficult for me to say and if I say it’s not good for me – and even yourself would be getting another reason to criticise me,” Mourinho said.
“I think you have had enough, so I prefer just to say that when last season we finish second, we finished runners-up in the FA Cup, we won our group in the Champions League, and I told was a fantastic season, I knew why I was telling that.”