Man City v Liverpool: ‘Mohamed Salah must start at Wembley’ – Danny Murphy analysis

Danny Murphy joins Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Micah Richards for Manchester City against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, live from Wembley Stadium. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. BST on Saturday on BBC One. Kick off is at 3:30 p.m.

It’s been 753 minutes since Mohamed Salah’s last goal from open play for Liverpool, but there’s still no chance I’ll leave him out of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

Ignoring penalties, Salah hasn’t found the net with any of his last 38 efforts on goal in the last two months, but he has to start at Wembley as he’s a match winner and he’s earned the right to play in big games like this even if he’s on a bad streak.

Mohamed Salah's last goal from open play came against Norwich on February 19
Mohamed Salah’s last goal from open play came in the 67th minute against Norwich on February 19. Since then he has scored three penalties, but it is his longest streak of goalless appearances in open play for Liverpool (10), as well as the longest in terms of minutes. His previous longest was nine appearances, between July and October 2020

I agree he hasn’t played as well as he can but let’s not forget that since the 29-year-old Egyptian joined Liverpool in 2017 he has been setting standards with his numbers goals above anything we thought was possible.

We judge him by his own ridiculous record and the fact that his stats for the past two months are more ordinary doesn’t change the fact that he’s capable of scoring remarkable goals that no one else on the pitch can, no matter what. whatever the opponent.

That in itself is reason enough to choose him, but on top of that you have to remember the effect his mere presence will have on City.

Whether Joao Cancelo, Nathan Ake or Oleksandr Zinchenko play at left-back for City this weekend, they would fear Salah at all times.

They all love going forward, but they know that when they do, they leave the Premier League’s top scorer behind. It’s a very different dynamic to anyone else they might face in the Liverpool squad.

Although Salah didn’t score at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, he still had a huge impact on the game, especially with his perfect pass for Sadio Mane to make it 2-2 early in the second half.

I expect more of the same this time around, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Salah actually scores the winner, because he’s done it so many times before.

Chart showing Mohamed Salah has scored 153 goals for Liverpool
Salah scored 153 goals in 243 games for Liverpool, winning the Golden Boot – or part of it – as the Premier League’s top scorer twice.

Liverpool need their expert liaison man too

It’s not just Salah whose place is in doubt. Jurgen Klopp has big decisions to make over who will enter his front three, due to the competition for places that Diogo Jota and now Luis Diaz have brought to their attack.

Jota was given the green light on Roberto Firmino to start against City last weekend. But I think what happened in this game means we might see more Firmino this time.

Like Diaz, Jota was a great buy but none of them can do the job Firmino does for the team of keeping the ball and getting it up the pitch.

Liverpool striker
Firmino has scored 98 goals in 322 games for Liverpool compared to 34 in 73 for Jota – but the Brazilian is more renowned for his work outside the box.

Jota scored his goal against City, of course, but he also gave up possession a few times when he fell in deeper areas to try to tie the game.

Firmino is by far their best player to do that and there were a few times on Sunday where it was very obvious he wasn’t there, in the pockets he usually operates in.

It meant Liverpool lost the ball, and you can’t do that against a team as good as City and expect to keep getting away with it.

There are pros and cons, whoever you choose. Jota is obviously much more of a goal threat – Firmino’s goalscoring record is nowhere near as good – but if you go with his strength you miss what Firmino gives you outside the box, and vice versa.

Given how the game is likely to play out and the importance of competing with City in midfield, I think Firmino’s reliability in linking Liverpool’s play will get him the green light.

Submarines will also play a big role

Salah and Mane both started Wednesday’s Champions League home game against Benfica on the bench and only played for the last half hour or so, a night when the Reds were still comfortably ahead of the whole.

On the other hand, City had to travel to Madrid for a really intense meeting with Atletico where they were tested and pushed until the very end.

The fact that Liverpool were able to rest and rotate their squad more than City did in midweek might only make a small difference to how things go this weekend, but it will be a factor. There is no way the pace will be any less fierce than Sunday’s and the players will tire as the game progresses.

That doesn’t mean you rule out City, as we know how much quality they have in their squad and how consistent they have been with their high levels of performance over what is now a multi-year span.

I also think talking about fatigue can sometimes be overstated anyway because as a player at this stage of the season, whether it’s for Liverpool or City, you’re playing for your place in the next game. You don’t want to rest; you want to play as much as you can.

Even so, when the teams are as good and as close as these two are, you’re looking for any area where you can have an edge – and Liverpool still being a bit fresher probably makes them slight favorites this time around. .

For both teams, however, how they use their substitutes is going to be vital, not even from a tactical point of view but from a physical one.

Decisions will be: When do you change things, who do you change, and what impact does that have on the game?

Whoever succeeds – be it Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola – is likely to win the game, as I would be amazed if a substitute didn’t significantly affect the outcome of this semi-final.

Danny Murphy was talking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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