tough call | 

Does Mohamed Salah deserve to start the biggest game of the season?

Jurgen Klopp has a big call to make on whether Mo Salah starts today's game

John Aldridge

LIVERPOOL manager Jurgen Klopp has a massive decision to make this afternoon - and it might just decide the destiny of this season's Premier League title.

The best two teams in world football are about to clash at the Etihad Stadium - and it could be winner takes all in a race that has been ignited by Liverpool's remarkable run of wins over the last couple of months.

Now comes the ultimate test against Manchester City - and if Klopp's side can get the win, they will become favourites to win the club's 20th domestic crown.

Yet the question in my mind right now is should Klopp leave his leading scorer Mohamed Salah on the bench for the biggest game of the season?

It's hard to believe I am writing those words about one of the world's best players, but the reality has to be that three forwards are more worthy of starting this game than Salah on current form.

Some Liverpool fans may have thought I was a little harsh with my comments last weekend, but his performance against Watford was not good enough.

Then he was below par again in the Champions League win against Benfica on Tuesday night. Klopp has to make sense of it all.

Maybe he's had his head turned by another club over a big-money move this summer, or his contract dispute has got to him, but the game against City is too important to have any of those issues getting in the way.

Anything less than a top-class performance will end with a City win, so Liverpool can't afford to have any passengers.

That's why I believe Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz deserve to start this game ahead of Salah, but leaving out a player of that quality would be a massive gamble.

Klopp will see him at the training ground every day and if his form there is as poor as it has been in matches of late, he needs to leave him out of his team.

That said, how can you pick a team without one of the few players in world football that can hurt any team with a moment of magic?

Salah did just that with his wonderful goal against City in the game at Anfield earlier this season, and they won't forget that moment in a hurry.

Yet the Salah of the last few weeks is not the player who was scoring goals for fun a few months back. That's why his position in the team is under threat.

Klopp's selection will be crucial, but the overall performance of his team needs to be lifted from what they have shown in recent weeks.

That may sound like a ridiculous statement given the run of wins they have put together, but Liverpool have been winning matches when they have been a long way short of their best.

Their last two victories against Watford and Benfica were ground out amid disappointing displays.

And if Klopp had one wish for the big one in this game, it would be to see his team play as we all know they can.

Even if they do that, there is no guarantee it will be enough against a fantastic City side, who have a chance to all but clinch the title today.

If Pep Guardiola's side beat Liverpool, they will be four points ahead at the top of the table with games running out and all the momentum with them.

There may be a temptation to suggest a draw wouldn't be a bad result for Liverpool away from home - I'd go along with that.

The top two in the Premier League will have just seven games left to play in this compelling title race when the final whistle sounds in this game - and while City are only one point ahead, Liverpool would need to win every game to put them under pressure in the final month of the season.

I just don't see that happening, with a slip-up or two inevitable when the pressure is at its most intense. This is the day for Liverpool to crank through the gears and take the opportunity they have created for themselves.

They need keeper Alisson Becker to be at his best, as City will inevitably create five or six big chances, as they do in every game they play.

Then they have to hope Trent Alexander-Arnold gets forward and delivers decisive balls into the box, because there is no one in world football with better accuracy than him right now.

Trent's bursts forward could give City a chance to get in behind Liverpool on the break, with Klopp's use of the high-defensive line an area Guardiola's side will look to exploit.

Then Liverpool will look at the game's big players to come up with the moments that decide these high-octane clashes - City's Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden capable of turning a game with a flash of brilliance.

Finally, I come back to Liverpool's match-winners and Klopp is fortunate to have four players who could produce the decisive moment that could swing the game.

Jota has to start given his scoring form, Mane will get the nod as he has been contributing and Klopp might well take the safe option and pick Salah over Diaz.

That would be harsh on the newest member of Liverpool's attacking line, as Diaz has been a fantastic addition to the side since his arrival in January.

Yet Klopp is loyal to the players who have served him well over an extended period of time and that may be why Salah gets picked ahead of Diaz.

So who wins the big one today?

A draw is probably the likely result as when there is so much at stake avoiding defeat is often a result both sides settle for.

If we do get a winner, there is every chance that team will go on to be crowned Premier League champions next month.

JURGEN Klopp would have been fuming when it was confirmed Paul Tierney could be making decisions that could decide the title in today's clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester-based referee Anthony Taylor will be calling the shots on the field and he will be joined by Tierney on VAR duty.

How can anyone think the appointment of two referees from Manchester is reasonable for this game?

It's a joke, and as for the decision to give Tierney a role in this game, I can't see how anyone can think that is a good idea.

This is the official who failed to send off Harry Kane after a wild challenge in a game that ended with Liverpool dropping two points at Tottenham.

Then he was in charge of City's game at Everton, when he decided against giving the home side a late penalty that could have cost them two points when Rodri moved his arm towards the ball in the box.

Everton manager Frank Lampard asked after the game whether Tierney and his VAR team had an agenda to help City out, and I joined him in pondering that question.

Putting Taylor and Tierney in such a prominent position for the biggest game of the season piles the pressure on them if, and when, they have to make a call that could decide the game.

That's why the Manchester duo should not have been anywhere near this crunch clash.

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