Liverpool fans can almost taste the Champions League final, which will be hosted by Kiev on May 26. They have avoided both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the semi-final draw, and instead will take on a Roma side that has shown plenty of weaknesses on the road in this competition so far. Tuesday’s first leg could prove oh so vital.
And if you had Mo Salah at your disposal, you’d feel pretty chipper about your chances too.
The Egyptian was today named PFA Player of the Year, taking more of the players’ vote than Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva, after a goal-laden campaign that has driven the Reds to the brink of a Champions League final place and a top-three berth in the Premier League.
It is Salah’s presence out on the right wing, with Sadio Mane on the left and Roberto Firmino through the middle, that makes Liverpool such an enjoyable team to watch, and confirms the size of the task facing Roma; no wonder the Merseysiders are as short as 4/11 with some bookmakers to qualify for the Champions League final.
And Salah, against his former club, is expected to do the bulk of the damage.
The Egyptian King: A Season in Numbers
What is extraordinary about Salah’s goal-laden campaign is that he is causing such devastation from a wide area’ similar to Lionel Messi’s best work at Barcelona.
He is given complete freedom to roam and cut inside on that left foot, with minimal defensive duties assigned to him (although the Egyptian has no qualms about tracking back).
Not only is Salah doing the business, his ingenuity in possession is also aiding those around him too. Just look at these Premier League stats: his haul of 31 goals (with three games still to go) is higher than the tally which has won the golden boot in the past three seasons, and matches that of another former Liverpool talisman – Luis Suarez – in 2013/14. If he scores once more, Salah will own the record highest goalscoring season record since the Premier League changed to 20 teams.
The Egyptian has already created a slice of history: he has been involved in 40 Premier League goals this term (31 scored, nine assists) – only the fifth player to do in more than 20 years.
£34 million? Yep, that’s a bargain.
Of course, Salah’s heroics haven’t been consigned to domestic matters only. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals in the Champions League than Salah this term; a competition in which the 25-year-old has netted a goal once every 92 minutes, on average.
There are detractors who believe De Bruyne should have been named PFA Player of the Year, but when you look at the cold, hard numbers it is difficult to argue with the Egyptian’s achievements.
No Case for the Defence
There are a number of very obvious reasons why Liverpool are such a hot favourite for this Champions League semi-final against Roma, and clearly their ability to beat anyone, anywhere is top of that list.
But the bookmaking traders will only be too aware of the Italians’ apparent frailty away from home against elite opposition, and they have priced their markets accordingly.
They shipped three goals at Stamford Bridge in the group phase, as well as losing in Madrid and just sneaking past the unheralded Qarabag by two goals to one.
In the knockout phase they lost 1-2 at Shakhtar Donetsk and 1-4 at Barcelona; only Herculean efforts in the second legs of those matches at the Stadio Olimpico were enough to secure their passage to the next round.
Will lightning strike thrice at Anfield? The Italians may be confident of nicking an away goal once again, but surely the bigger question is just how many will Liverpool score? Roma have shipped twelve in five Champions League outings on the road thus far, and with Salah and co in such vibrant form you really do worry for the visitors in what will be another lively and highly-charged night of European football on Merseyside.