Liverpool vs Man City, the tale of two North Africans
The most followed football league on the face of the earth returns this weekend. Two of the three teams yet to lose a premier league game face-off on Sunday at one of the most electric atmospheres in the world of football, Anfield. One of the team are the reigning EPL champion while the other has not tasted some silverware since 2012. They however made the UEFA Champions League in the 2017/18 campaign and look like a club that is on the up. Manchester City and Liverpool have almost made lightwork of all premier league opposition so far, tied on points at the top of the table with only goal difference separating them - Sunday will properly separate the two. The winner will lay a huge marker for the 2018/19 title. What else should we expect?
A pertinent question to all the defenders picked of Sunday will be on how to stop two Arab brothers if there are both unleashed for the contest.
The 26-year-old needs no introduction. Salah became the first African since George Weah to be shortlisted for FIFA’s prime individual accolade for a top male footballer, eventually getting pipped to the award by Croatia’s Luka Modric. He still won the FIFA Puskas Award though, for scoring the best goal for the 2017-2018 season. Today, we are not going to go deep into his fairytale debut season last year with Liverpool but about what’s at stake right now. Liverpool suffered an embarrassing 1-0 loss at Napoli midweek in the Champions League after a lifeless performance in Naples. They have not won all their last three matches in all competitions against Napoli and Chelsea after winning all of their opening matches. The fable that they were bullying lesser teams looks like a reality at the face of the most recent results. The face of that Liverpool side, failing to win has been arguably Salah - who did not score a single goal in those matches. With high expectations on him to repeat the ridiculous feat of last season, he looks like he may be contending with the pressure that comes with it. Naysayers have already made him news headlines on several platforms. It all comes down to this weekend, with Liverpool keen to go back to winning ways and have a go at the current champions, making their case for being future champions and Salah also keen to go back on the scoresheet and remind the world and Anfield that silverware is what they are after; that they will beat the best if they have to. A scoring Salah will easily be considered to be consistent with a Liverpool that means business.
This North African knows one or two things about winning silverwares. He has his own fairytale to reminisce, that narrates the unbelievable 2015/16 epl triumph by Leicester City. Riyad pulled all the strings in that Leicester side, aiding Jamie Vardy’s development to be a prolific striker. Unlike Salah, he is not City’s face, at least not for now. After switching to Manchester this summer in deal that made him the club’s record signing, the 27-year-old is yet to secure a regular starting position in Guardiola’s team. It cannot be any easier now, with Kevin De Bruyne expected to return to the side after being sidelined with injury. Mahrez’s favorite position over the years has grown to be the right wing, where he can cut inside with his left foot and from time to time, smash the ball to the far bottom corner beyond the goalkeeper’s reach. The chop and score has become the Mahrez trademark move. England’s Raheem Sterling has been quite efficient in that right wing position, scoring four times and assisting two others in six premier league starts. Bernardo Silva has on occasion, been deployed in that position as well and could continue in that light, now that David Silva and De Bruyne look to be picking up their protagonistic roles once again. Put simply, competition for Mahrez at City is quite tough. Whether he gets a starting role on Sunday, only Pep knows. What’s apparent is that he will have a mark on the game. He has to in his journeying of impressing the gaffer. He has scored a total of three goals in all of his three starts for City this campaign. Actually, two of the goals were from the bench against Cardiff. He is ready, starting or otherwise - he is looking to influence.
Last time out
The most recent Liverpool and Manchester City match in the premier league finished 4-3 after Liverpool had leaped to a 4-1 lead with both Salah and Mane getting their names on the score sheet. Liverpool inflicted City’s first defeat of the season last time;will Salah lead Liverpool to do it again or will Mahrez move not to allow it?