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Do edgy Liverpool need even more from Salah-Mane double-act vs. Everton?

16:46 GMT 01/03/2019
Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane Liverpool 2018-19
The Senegal hitman’s goals have crucially kept the Reds top, but his Egyptian teammate must rediscover his mojo in Sunday's heavyweight showdown

Neutrals can sit back and enjoy this season’s rip-roaring title race between Liverpool and Manchester City, replete with unpredictability and drama.

The last time we've had such a thrilling championship battle was arguably back in the 2013-14 season, when the Reds and City competed for the biggest prize in the land.

On that occasion, the Citizens, under Manuel Pellegrini, ended that campaign as champions, although Brendan Rodgers’ Reds had been top of the pile with three games to play.

The league’s lead changed hands 25 times five years ago, during that memorable season, and while the current campaign hasn’t quite been as topsy-turvy, it hasn't been any less compelling.

Liverpool fans haven't enjoyed a title success since the inception of the Premier League in its current guise, with many of the current Anfield faithful not even born when Kenny Dalglish's side lifted the First Division in 1990.

Expectedly, nerves are jangling, and it was interesting to hear Virgil van Dijk appeal to the fans after a nail-biting 1-1 draw with Leicester City to stay calm in the run-in.

“It sounded like it was [nervous],” van Dijk began, acknowledging the nervous energy among the supporters. “You get that feeling as well from the crowd, and I think it’s not really necessary at the moment.”

Recent agitation hasn’t been helped by the fact that Sadio Mane seems to be the only consistent goalscoring threat the club have at the moment.

Sadio Mane | 2018-19 Premier League stats

Inclusive of the Leicester draw, the Senegal international has found the back of the net four times in the Reds’ last five league games.

By contrast, the club’s talisman Mohamed Salah has only netted once – in a 3-0 success against Bournemouth – in the last month, likewise the currently injured Roberto Firmino.

Salah’s four blanks in a quintet of games could be seen as the pressure telling.

Mohamed Salah | 2018-19 Premier League stats

Prior to facing Manchester United, Liverpool’s top scorer admitted to Jamie Carragher in a sit-down interview to be "feeling the pressure, because [I am] human", and those words may be used as a stick to beat him if the Reds fall short.

While the Egyptian seemed to improve in the Reds’ 5-0 midweek annihilation of Watford, Klopp would demand more from his ace in the concluding weeks of the campaign.

The aforementioned resounding defeat of Javi Gracia’s Hornets was a welcome relief for fans of the Anfield club following a labored 0-0 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.

In a game that saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad weakened by pre-match and in-game injuries to key players, the club from the North West fell way short of expectations by failing to capitalize.

Klopp’s side failed to create anything meaningful, and even had Alisson Becker to thank for thwarting Jesse Lingard from opening the scoring for the Red Devils.

On a day in which the onus was on Liverpool to go for the kill at the home of their injury-hit rivals, the pair of Salah – who again struggled in a big match – and the toiling Mane failed to pull a rabbit out of the hat for the away side.

Even though Sunday’s dour draw passed as disappointing, the five-star response in midweek was outstanding.

However, Liverpool have won only two of their last six matches, and it remains to be seen whether they're completely over their recent wobble.

Since the turn of the year, they’ve failed to pick up maximum points in all but one game on their travels: there was a 2-1 defeat by City, a 1-1 draw at West Ham United, and the recent goalless encounter against United.

Their only away success in 2019 was a 1-0 win against Chris Hughton’s struggling Brighton & Hove Albion side: a Salah penalty secured the points, but it only masked a second-rate display at the Amex.

Up next is a trip to city rivals Everton, and Marco Silva’s side have a score to settle given how the reverse fixture in early December ended. 

The Toffees gave a good account of themselves, but a last-gasp Divock Origi goal saw the Reds claim a slender 1-0 success. It was something of an injustice that the blue half of Merseyside will be desperate to overturn.

With only 10 games left, the most compelling title race in recent memory nears its final stretch; Liverpool need 14-goal Mane – who surpassed his personal best tally in England with his Watford brace – and out-of-form Salah to begin to deliver consistently once again.

Crucially, City are slated to play first in the coming gameweeks, which has the potential to heap further pressure on the Reds, particularly as you'd expect Pep Guardiola's side to claim wins in fixtures against Bournemouth, Watford and Fulham before Klopp’s team even kick a ball.

Ostensibly, Mane seems to be thriving, but Salah appears to be caving under the weight of expectation.

If the pair fail to work together in the final weeks of the season, fans of the Anfield club may have to wait a while to end nearly three decades of hurt and pain in their search for that so-far unattainable Premier League title.