Prolific Salah and provider de Bruyne the key men

LONDON • Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah and Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne are the outstanding performers in the English Premier League this season. It's time for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year favourites to showcase their talents on the European stage today.

Salah is set to pose the biggest attacking threat to City in the first leg of the all-English Champions League quarter-final clash, having already scored 37 goals in all competitions this season, including one in Liverpool's 4-3 league victory over Pep Guardiola's side in January.

If City have a weakness, it is at left-back where Guardiola has fielded several players this season following the knee ligament injury to first choice Benjamin Mendy in September.

Brazilian Danilo, converted midfielder Fabian Delph and Ukrainian youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko have all played in that role this season but Guardiola opted for French central defender Aymeric Laporte in that position for Saturday's 3-1 win at Everton. That may have been a dress rehearsal for today's game, where the left-back will have the daunting task of marking Salah.

One defender who claims he knows how to stop Salah should start at Anfield tonight but he will be in red.

"When (Salah) is 100 per cent and in the zone then he can beat anyone," said Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. "There are ways to stop him, but I'm not going to tell you because I don't want our opponents to think about it."

Liverpool also know only too well of the danger posed by de Bruyne's passing range as his two assists cut them open in a 5-0 City rout when the sides first met this season in September in a display that saw Guardiola label him the "complete player".

De Bruyne now has 11 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for City this term and the Belgian has been surprised by his consistency.

" I didn't expect to be this good, to be honest," he said. "There is almost no game where my standard has dropped, I have been very constant. To maintain the level in the amount of games I have played, I am very pleased with that."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2018, with the headline 'Prolific Salah and provider de Bruyne the key men'. Print Edition | Subscribe