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Salah, Mane, Jota, Diaz or Firmino? – Fans debate Liverpool’s attack vs. Man City

Liverpool have five elite attacking options to choose from ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash with Man City, but which trio will start at the Etihad?

The Reds have a gargantuan match to prepare for on Sunday afternoon, as they head to their Premier League title rivals.

City are one point clear of Jurgen Klopp‘s side and the result in Manchester is likely to have a huge bearing on who eventually takes home the trophy next month.

While most of Liverpool’s starting lineup picks itself, guessing who will play out of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino is bordering on impossible.

We have asked Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87), Red (@TaintlessRed), Liam Togher (@liamtogher88) and Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) to provide their thoughts on the matter, pick their attacking unit and predict what Klopp will go with.

 

Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87)

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Luis Díaz celebrates after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who are you choosing to make up the front three?

Salah, Diaz, Firmino

There was a time when if any of Salah, Mane or Firmino were out, it felt fatal to Liverpool’s chances of winning. How things have changed!

I’ve spent a long time mulling over my answer – in all honesty, I’m still not 100 percent sure.

Salah has to start for me, despite some poor form. City will fear him and he has the ability to win the biggest match of the season with one moment of genius.

I would go with Diaz on the left, with the Colombian such an exciting talent who has a touch of unpredictability about him at the moment.

He feels like Mane did at 25, and while other forwards aren’t right at the peak of their powers anymore, he looks like someone coming right into his best years.

My final pick would be Firmino. He’s certainly not the incredible player he was a few years ago, but his holdup play and ability to link with others is superior to Mane and Jota down the middle.

For that reason, he gets the nod over those two – they are amazing players, too, so don’t yell at me! – with the Brazilian perfect for a game against City.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (L) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who do you think Klopp will go with?

Salah, Diaz, Mane

Diaz is a tricky one, possibly because of a lack of experience in the fixture and also the fact that leaving him out arguably feels like the least controversial decision out of the five.

I think he may just get the nod, though.

Salah will keep his place, for sure, and I would be shocked to see Mane left out of a game of such magnitude, given his contribution through the years.

While much has been made of Firmino starting as well, I actually think Klopp will go with Diaz.

 

Taintless Red (@TaintlessRed)

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 12, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who are you choosing to make up the front three?

Salah, Diaz, Firmino

It’s worth stressing that our main five attackers are all great and have merits to start for different reasons.

That being said, I do think some players might be more suited to the difficult task of facing such a strong City side away from home.

Salah hasn’t been in the best form of late but he’s still the best player in the Premier League – arguably the world – so for me, he has to start.

His underlying performance numbers all look good, his movement is still outstanding, he’s getting into great positions and always draws multiple opposition players to him, creating space for others.

I would start Firmino centrally.

He’s not quite the same player as he was a few years ago, but his unique skillset in finding space, linking attacks, winning the ball back and aiding the flow of our game is even more important against a team that likes to dominate possession like City.

That means only one other forward slot to fill – the left-sided attacker.

Diaz has been outstanding since joining Liverpool and I think he brings a fear factor with him. He scored a worldie against City while at Porto, and his pace and effectiveness in big spaces could be a deciding factor.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (R) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who do you think Klopp will go with?

Salah, Mane, Firmino

It can be hard to second-guess Klopp’s selections nowadays with the great options he has available.

If his recent substitutions are an indication, then it is possible that he will go with all three of the old guard in Mane, Firmino and Salah.

That would still be an excellent attack, although personally, I think Diaz adds that additional bit of the unknown that would ask new questions of City’s defence.

 

Liam Togher (@liamtogher88)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 9, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who are you choosing to make up the front three?

Salah, Diaz, Firmino

The one man I’d have in without hesitation is Diaz, who gave yet another tremendous performance on Tuesday and got a well-deserved goal to boot.

Much has been made recently of Salah’s ongoing wait for a goal from open play, but as he demonstrated with his Goal of the Season against City in October, he often comes good in the biggest matches.

Put it this way – if he comes up with a match-winning brace on Sunday, all the talk of his recent slump will quickly become a distant memory.

On a rare occasion where we might not be the dominant team in possession, I would also include Firmino due to how much he offers in terms of his pressing game and the potential to prevent City from getting into a rhythm.

Jota has a happy knack of scoring recently without playing well, but we can’t afford for him, or anyone, to be on the periphery on Sunday, so I’d use him more as an impact substitute.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 1, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 239th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who do you think Klopp will go with?

Salah, Mane, Firmino

The 60th-minute withdrawals of Salah and Mane in midweek would appear to offer a strong hint that both will start at the Etihad.

And even though neither is on top form of late, they are both proven enough performers for Klopp to trust in them for such a pivotal encounter.

Conversely, Diaz getting the full 90 minutes in Lisbon may indicate that he won’t be in the first XI this weekend.

My gut is that Klopp will go with the time-honoured front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane, although the only one I’m very much convinced will start is the Egyptian King.

 

Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 30, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring a goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who are you choosing to make up the front three?

Mane, Diaz, Firmino

Is it controversial to leave Salah out? He may have the reputation, but he is arguably in the worst form of any of the five regular starters.

The only consideration, as the others have mentioned, is his proven ability to pull it out of the bag in the big games – and with seven goals and three assists in 12 previous meetings, particularly against City.

However, I am resolved to be contrary and plump for a bullishly in-form Mane on the right, the maverick Diaz on the left and the controlling Firmino up top.

I feel that blend could be the most effective in this tie. And it’s not a bad position to be able to bring a hungry Salah and Jota off the bench, is it?

Mo Salah and Sadio Mane celebrate (Image: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith)

Who do you think Klopp will go with?

Salah, Mane, Firmino

As noted above, it is almost impossible to predict how Liverpool will line up for any particular game now the squad is fully fit.

But I have an inkling that Klopp will go for the tried and tested on Sunday, with Salah, Mane and Firmino reprising their roles as the leading trio.

In truth, you can’t really go wrong with any iteration of those five.

Watch Klopp throw a curveball now and start big Div up front at the Etihad!

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