It is hard to predict the outcome when Liverpool and Manchester City go toe-to-toe in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Judging by their scoring exploits this season, the one certainty surrounding all Premier League showdown is that there will be more goals.
Mohamed Salah has scored 37 times in his debut campaign with Liverpool, quickly becoming the focal point of a forward line that has made Jurgen Klopp’s side such an attractive side to watch – and such a scary opponent to come up against.
Pep Guardiola’s second season at the helm has seen City dominate their domestic league. Even without the injured Sergio Aguero for the first leg, they will fancy coming out on top in a shoot-out for a semi-final spot.
Ahead of the game at Anfield on Wednesday, we take a look at the Opta stats behind the two sets of forwards who will surely decide the tie.
AGUER-NO! JESUS ANSWERS CITY’S PRAYERS
The absence of Aguero is a blow for City. A knee problem means the club’s all-time leading scorer will have a watching brief back home in Manchester. This season, he has scored 30 times and also shown his creative side with seven assists, meaning he has been involved in a goal on average every 78 minutes.
However, having Gabriel Jesus waiting in the wings softens the blow to a degree. The Brazilian has scored 12 goals, including finding the net in Saturday’s 3-1 win away at Everton, in 1,946 minutes of action.
He has converted 22.6 percent of his shots this season, a higher number than the man he will replace in the central role of City’s front three. However, he averages a goal every 162 minutes, a far higher number than the prolific Aguero (97).
Jesus may be more suited than his fellow South American to press from the front when City are without the ball, but the numbers suggest the 21-year-old will struggle to match Aguero’s output.
BOBBY’S SAMBA BEAT
There will be an intriguing battle within the war as two Brazilian forwards take center stage. National boss Tite will no doubt be paying close attention to the performances of Jesus and compatriot Roberto Firmino, particularly with a World Cup looming on the horizon.
The focal point of Liverpool’s front three, Firmino is enjoying his best season since moving to England. The 26-year-old has dazzled like his pearly white teeth, scoring 23 goals – eight of them in the Champions League, including one in the qualifying round – and also laying on 12 assists.
He has played more minutes (3,374) than any of the forwards who will be on display at Anfield but shows no signs of slowing down as we reach the closing stages of the campaign.
Firmino has been involved in a goal every 96 minutes and has fired off 116 shots, converting 19.8 percent of them. He still leads Liverpool’s press from the front of course, yet there is much more to his game than simply working hard for the team’s cause.
Raheem Sterling will return to familiar surroundings for the first leg. He left Liverpool under a cloud in July 2015, joining the blue half of Manchester for what was at the time a record fee for an English player.
This season, the 23-year-old has taken his game to a new level. Criticised in the past for lacking an end product, Sterling has scored 21 times from 96 shots. He bagged four in the group stage of the Champions League, including netting both home and away against Napoli.
Leroy Sane has not matched Sterling in terms of goals, albeit 13 is still an impressive return at this stage of the season when you consider he managed nine in his first year at the Etihad Stadium.
The Germany international is the expert at setting up his team-mates, though. He’s registered 15 assists, making him the top creator on either forward line, in 41 appearances to date.
THE EGYPTIAN KING
Liverpool’s front three of Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane have combined to score 75 goals in all competitions this season. Even City’s first-choice triumvirate (Sterling-Aguero-Sane) lag slightly behind their opponents in terms of scoring output, managing to find the net 64 times.
As already mentioned, Salah tops the club’s scoring charts, averaging a goal every 90 minutes. That is because he gets so many chances, right? Well, not according to the numbers – the former Chelsea player has had 163 attempts, but he has found the net with 22.7 percent of them.
Add in his 10 assists and Salah has been involved in a goal every 71 minutes. That is a better number than all those who will be involved on Wednesday, as well as the absent Aguero.
The Egyptian’s sensational debut campaign with Liverpool has overshadowed Firmino’s 23-goal haul to a degree, while Mane has contributed 15 after switching flanks to accommodate Salah in the team. Still, as a threesome who work so well together, they are tough to stop.