Liverpool will take to the field at Manchester City on Thursday as Premier League champions.

The Reds' 30-year wait to reign supreme in England's top flight came to an end when City were beaten by Chelsea last week.

Becoming champions with seven matches to spare underlines the dominant nature of a campaign masterminded by the brilliant Jurgen Klopp.

As such, a host of Liverpool players are expected to be in the running for the end-of-season awards.

But which of Klopp's heroes has been the most important to the cause? Here, our writers pick out who has been the star turn and state their case.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD – Dom Farrell

The majestic front three and the defensive solidity acquired through the astute big-money purchases of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are the twin pillars of this Liverpool triumph, but Trent Alexander-Arnold gives them their x-factor. Shut down Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino if you can, but then find yourself terrorised by a lavishly talented youngster who might yet redefine what the modern full-back looks like.

Lethal from both open play and dead ball situations, the 21-year-old has been the Reds' main creative force this term and it's not even particularly close. Andy Robertson is second to Alexander-Arnold's 12 assists with eight, while the right-back's 78 chances created dwarf the next best return – 49 from Salah.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Ryan Benson

Van Dijk has been the one ever-present for Liverpool this season, starting every single Premier League match. The Dutchman leads the way for clean sheets in the division with 14.

Throughout the campaign he has been the ultimate assuring presence at the back, from his exceptional reading of the game, dominant physicality and fine technical ability. While Salah, Mane and Firmino may be responsible for most of the goals, they would also be significantly worse off without Van Dijk, whose impact at Anfield continues to amaze.

JORDAN HENDERSON – Rob Lancaster

If Van Dijk is the Rolls Royce at the back and the forward trio are sports cars capable of going from 0-60mph in a hurry, Jordan Henderson is the equivalent to a five-door family hatchback. Flashy? No. Supremely reliable? Absolutely. 

Under Klopp, the Reds' win percentage is almost 13 per cent higher (68.8 per cent compared to 56) when Henderson plays. Their only league defeat so far this season, away to Watford, came without the skipper in the line-up.

The midfielder has contributed in attack, providing five assists and grabbing three goals in 2019-20, but that's not his major purpose. Henderson knows his role and plays it to perfection, serving as the manager's on-field lieutenant as he passes and presses relentlessly to help break opposition teams down. Having lifted the Champions League last season, now he has captained Liverpool to domestic glory too.

SADIO MANE – Joe Wright

It's often said the mark of champions is to win not just when playing well, but when victory seems beyond you. Sometimes – if not often – Liverpool have been up against it and in need of a saviour. More often than not, that saviour has been Sadio Mane. 

Mane has been Liverpool's most impressive attacking player all season, his all-round game now honed to a frighteningly high level that has produced 15 goals and seven assists. Those goals have been undeniably crucial, yielding 18 points in 2019-20, a tally nobody in the Premier League can better. If ever Liverpool looked likely to falter, Mane's goals kept them on course.

MOHAMED SALAH – Liam Blackburn

Salah's prolific debut season following his arrival from Roma – he scored 44 goals in all competitions in 2017-18 – raised the bar ridiculously high. Even in the previous campaign, no one scored more in the Premier League than the Egyptian's 22 and he is once again Liverpool's leading marksman in 2019-20.  

His total of 21 goals in all competitions sees him average one every 146 minutes, while no one in the Premier League has scored more than Salah's seven match-winners.

However, Salah is about more than just goals. He has created 49 chances and provided seven assists. Liverpool's struggles to break down a stubborn Everton defence when the 28-year-old remained on the bench throughout their first game after the lockdown only underlined his importance.

Having finally ended their wait for a breakthrough Premier League title, Liverpool will face the team they dethroned as champions, Manchester City, on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp's men led the way as early as August and never relinquished their grasp on first place.

Unlike in the near misses in 2008-09, 2013-14 and 2018-19, the Reds would not be caught, with Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake as they secured top-flight silverware for the first time since 1990.

They will receive a guard of honour at the Etihad Stadium, with City's 2-1 loss at Chelsea last week clinching the championship.e

However, there were a number of key results along the way. We take a look.
 

Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City - September 14

Pep Guardiola's side blinked first in the title race. Although City had already dropped points at home to Tottenham before visiting Norwich, it appeared the defending champions would again match Liverpool stride for stride. But one of the upsets of the season sent shockwaves through the division in matchweek five.

City lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee ligament injury the previous weekend, and John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi endured a miserable evening as Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki scored at Carrow Road. Liverpool had earlier come from behind to beat Newcastle United, establishing a strong early advantage.

Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool - September 28

Liverpool did eventually drop points for the first time against Manchester United in October, but their winning start continued to that point despite a serious test against newly promoted Sheffield United.

The Blades have been a surprise package this season and were perhaps good value for a point against Klopp's men, only for an uncharacteristic error by goalkeeper Dean Henderson - on loan from rivals United - to gift Georginio Wijnaldum a precious 70th-minute winner.

Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool - November 2

It is often said that the best teams win even when they do not play well, and the victory at Sheffield United was far from unique in that sense. Indeed, at Villa Park, Liverpool were heading for defeat until the 87th minute.

However, Andy Robertson stole in for a late equaliser, and then Sadio Mane incredibly clinched victory in the fourth minute of stoppage time. It was the second such comeback from the Reds in two weeks, having previously rallied against Tottenham at Anfield in a crucial stretch that included a dramatic win over Leicester City and their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City - November 10

And eight days on from the win at Villa, Liverpool increased their lead at the top of the table to eight points with victory over City, who were left a further point back in fourth. With the Reds' failure to beat Guardiola's side home or away in 2018-19 proving costly, this success represented a huge boost.

The match was not without its controversies, however, as City fumed at an apparent Trent Alexander-Arnold handball in the build-up to Fabinho's opener. The right-back looked to be guilty of the same offence again late in the game, with no penalty given, as Mohamed Salah and Mane also netted in a mammoth triumph.

Liverpool 2-0 Watford - December 14

Along with the run of fixtures leading into that City game, December represented a key spell for Liverpool as their title bid was disrupted by the Club World Cup. Watford would be the side to finally beat the Reds in February and, in the final match before the FIFA tournament, they gave it a good go at Anfield, too.

Nigel Pearson's first game in charge of the Hornets saw Liverpool troubled throughout, and not until Salah struck his second in the 90th minute were the points made safe.

Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool - December 26

Liverpool won the Club World Cup in Qatar, but it was like they had never been away when their league campaign resumed on Boxing Day. Leicester were second when the teams met but were blown away on their own patch.

Roberto Firmino opened the scoring before the break and then netted again, along with James Milner and Alexander-Arnold, in a ruthless eight-minute second-half spell. City lost at Wolves the following day - their second defeat of December - and the title race already looked to have been run.

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City - February 2

Liverpool were relentless over the festive period, and their rivals' struggles meant Klopp's side could even afford a slow restart following the February mid-season break. Any slim City hopes of a spectacular pursuit of the Anfield club were surely already over in defeat at Tottenham prior to the weekend off.

Ilkay Gundogan missed a penalty, Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off, and Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min netted. Bernardo Silva subsequently moaned City "gave up a bit too soon" in the title race. When Guardiola's men went down 2-0 again at Manchester United a month later, Liverpool were on the brink.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's achievement of scoring 50 goals in 77 Premier League games for Arsenal makes him the sixth fastest player in the competition's history to hit the half-century milestone.

That Aubameyang arrived at 50 goals in fewer league matches than the likes of Sergio Aguero and Thierry Henry tells you just how prolific the Gabon international has been since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

Aubameyang's landmark goal, which arrived for Arsenal against Norwich City on Wednesday, is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has not been playing in a particularly successful team during his time at Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners finishing sixth in his first season, fifth in his second, and starting the day in 10th as they faced the Canaries.

The five players to have reached 50 Premier League goals in fewer matches than Aubameyang all did so in teams challenging at the top end of the table, and all with very distinct goal-scoring styles.
 

Andy Cole – 65 games

After scoring 12 goals when Newcastle United were promoted as Division One champions in 1992-93, Andy Cole plundered 34 in 40 top flight games to help Kevin Keegan's side finish third in the table the following season.

A real six-yard box striker who could also finish from distance and beat defenders for pace, he netted another nine Premier League goals for the Magpies before joining Manchester United, where he took his top-flight tally to 50 before the end of the 1994-95 season.

Alan Shearer – 66 games

Alan Shearer reached 50 Premier League goals during Blackburn Rovers' title-winning campaign in 1994-95, having netted 47 goals in 62 games in the two seasons prior.

Shearer's matchless eye for goal and thunderously powerful shot helped him to 34 goals in 42 matches as Rovers became champions, and he passed the 100 mark just a year later.

Ruud van Nistelrooy – 68 games

Ruud van Nistelrooy cost Manchester United £19million when he joined the club from PSV ahead of the 2001-02 season and he quickly set about repaying their faith in him.

The Netherlands international netted 23 Premier League goals in 32 games in his first season, followed by a further 25 in 34 games in 2002-03.

He then passed 50 in the 2003-04 season on his way to scoring 20 goals in 32 matches as United were beaten to the title by Arsenal.

Fernando Torres – 72

More similar to Aubameyang in terms of playing style than any of the players listed above, Fernando Torres scored his 50th Premier League goal during his third season as a Liverpool player.

It was a season that would end with Torres becoming a World Cup winner with Spain, but it was not a happy one for the Reds, who finished seventh in the table despite Torres' 18 goals in 22 games, and the striker left the club to join Chelsea part way through the following campaign.

Mohamed Salah – 72

Mohamed Salah scored his 50th Premier League goal during a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace in April 2019, becoming the second-fastest player to reach the milestone in terms of minutes played.

Only Shearer, who netted a half-century in 5,337 minutes for Blackburn, reached the landmark in a shorter on-pitch timespan than free-scoring Reds forward Salah, who did so in 5,374 minutes of play following his £34m transfer from Roma.

Mohamed Salah thanked Liverpool's fans after the club claimed a first league title since 1990.

Liverpool celebrated their first English top-flight success in 30 years following Manchester City's 2-1 Premier League defeat to Chelsea on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool – who have only lost once in the league this season – cannot be caught atop the table with seven matches remaining in 2019-20.

Liverpool narrowly missed out on ending their drought last season, finishing just a point behind City, and star forward Salah revelled in the team's triumph this term.

Salah wrote via Twitter: "Yes. It feels THAT good. I want to thank all our supporters watching us from all corners of the world.

"You made this possible for us and I hope we can keep bringing you the joy you deserve. Now they're gonna believe us."

Liverpool, who claimed the 2018-19 Champions League, have won 28 of their 31 Premier League matches this season.

"As a squad we're so close. We love coming in to training every single day. If somebody is having a bad game, we dig them out of a hole and we stick together on the pitch, we stick together off the pitch – that's why this squad is so special. I love being a part of it," Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson told Liverpoolfc.com.

"We're all kind of brothers and we have a dad figure in the gaffer and he's the one that leads us in the right direction. Him and his staff have been second to none, to be fair, since I've came here. This season they've been excellent to us going, keep us hungry, keep us motivated.

"Motivation has never been a struggle. As players we've always been hungry and we always wanted to win trophies for this club. Luckily, we're now showing that in the last 12 months."

Manchester City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday saw Liverpool crowned Premier League champions.

It ends a 30-year wait to reign supreme in England's top flight for the Anfield club and means Jurgen Klopp's stars will be rightly celebrated.

Becoming champions with seven matches to spare underlines the dominant nature of a campaign masterminded by their brilliant manager.

As such, a host of Liverpool players are expected to be in the running for the end-of-season awards.

But which of Klopp's heroes has been the most important to the cause? Here, our writers pick out who has been the star turn and state their case.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD – Dom Farrell

The majestic front three and the defensive solidity acquired through the astute big-money purchases of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are the twin pillars of this Liverpool triumph, but Trent Alexander-Arnold gives them their x-factor. Shut down Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino if you can, but then find yourself terrorised by a lavishly talented youngster who might yet redefine what the modern full-back looks like.

Lethal from both open play and dead ball situations, the 21-year-old has been the Reds' main creative force this term and it's not even particularly close. Andy Robertson is second to Alexander-Arnold's 12 assists with eight, while the right-back's 78 chances created dwarf the next best return – 49 from Salah.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Ryan Benson

Van Dijk has been the one ever-present for Liverpool this season, starting every single Premier League match. The Dutchman leads the way for clean sheets in the division with 14.

Throughout the campaign he has been the ultimate assuring presence at the back, from his exceptional reading of the game, dominant physicality and fine technical ability. While Salah, Mane and Firmino may be responsible for most of the goals, they would also be significantly worse off without Van Dijk, whose impact at Anfield continues to amaze.

JORDAN HENDERSON – Rob Lancaster

If Van Dijk is the Rolls Royce at the back and the forward trio are sports cars capable of going from 0-60mph in a hurry, Jordan Henderson is the equivalent to a five-door family hatchback. Flashy? No. Supremely reliable? Absolutely. 

Under Klopp, the Reds' win percentage is almost 13 per cent higher (68.8 per cent compared to 56) when Henderson plays. Their only league defeat so far this season, away to Watford, came without the skipper in the line-up.

The midfielder has contributed in attack, providing five assists and grabbing three goals in 2019-20, but that's not his major purpose. Henderson knows his role and plays it to perfection, serving as the manager's on-field lieutenant as he passes and presses relentlessly to help break opposition teams down. Having lifted the Champions League last season, now he has captained Liverpool to domestic glory too.

SADIO MANE – Joe Wright

It's often said the mark of champions is to win not just when playing well, but when victory seems beyond you. Sometimes – if not often – Liverpool have been up against it and in need of a saviour. More often than not, that saviour has been Sadio Mane. 

Mane has been Liverpool's most impressive attacking player all season, his all-round game now honed to a frighteningly high level that has produced 15 goals and seven assists. Those goals have been undeniably crucial, yielding 18 points in 2019-20, a tally nobody in the Premier League can better. If ever Liverpool looked likely to falter, Mane's goals kept them on course.

MOHAMED SALAH – Liam Blackburn

Salah's prolific debut season following his arrival from Roma – he scored 44 goals in all competitions in 2017-18 – raised the bar ridiculously high. Even in the previous campaign, no one scored more in the Premier League than the Egyptian's 22 and he is once again Liverpool's leading marksman in 2019-20.  

His total of 21 goals in all competitions sees him average one every 146 minutes, while no one in the Premier League has scored more than Salah's seven match-winners.

However, Salah is about more than just goals. He has created 49 chances and provided seven assists. Liverpool's struggles to break down a stubborn Everton defence when the 28-year-old remained on the bench throughout their first game after the lockdown only underlined his importance.

It may have taken a few months longer than it should have because of the coronavirus pandemic, but at long last Liverpool are Premier League champions.

Manchester City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday finally made it mathematically impossible for Pep Guardiola's men to catch the Reds, leaving Liverpool to celebrate a first ever Premier League title.

Having come close to ending their barren run a few times over the past three decades before falling short, Liverpool were plagued by suggestions they may not be able to handle the pressure in their quest to claim a first league championship since 1990.

But in reality this was a forgone conclusion for a long time, having dropped points just once in their first 27 league matches this term.

Following confirmation of their historic achievement, we crunched the Opta numbers and looked at the key areas of their squad this season.

Dynamic and dependable at the back

Liverpool's excellence in attack is obvious – few clubs in Europe can boast a more effective front three, but at the back they are similarly impressive.

Virgil van Dijk is the key figure, of course, and the Dutchman has led by example from the back again this term. He has started all 31 of Liverpool's matches, the only Reds player to do so, and he has helped keep a league-high 14 clean sheets.

But Alisson's importance is also easy to highlight. The Brazilian missed a chunk of the season due to injury, yet he's only two shy of Van Dijk in the clean sheet stakes.

But in the modern game there is more to defenders than just ensuring the opposition don't score – full-backs are expected to be creative, and Liverpool embody that perfectly.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has laid on 12 assists this season – a figure bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne – and created 78 chances, 29 more than the Reds' second most creative player. On top of that, Andy Robertson has eight assists to his name, the joint-fourth best in the league.

Henderson the unsung hero in midfield

Throughout his career, Jordan Henderson has polarised opinion – but the only point of view that counts here is Klopp's, and the data shows the former Sunderland star's influence.

Since Klopp joined the club, Liverpool's win frequency in the league is 13 per cent better with Henderson in the team than when he is absent.

Indeed, their solitary league defeat this term – at Watford in February – came when Henderson was not in the team.

Henderson has played 125 Premier League matches for Klopp, losing just 11. In the same period, the Reds have lost 10 times from just 50 games without him.

He may not attract the plaudits like those scoring and creating the goals, but there's little doubt his functionality helps Liverpool and aids their more technically gifted superstars.

Triple threat

Is there a better front three in world football than Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah? While difficult to absolutely prove, they are undoubtedly vital to this Liverpool team.

All three are in double figures for goal involvements, with Firmino on 15 (eight goals, seven assists), 22 for Mane (15 goals, seven assists) and Salah in front with 24 (17 goals, seven assists).

Salah has found the net every 137 minutes in the league this term, the best in the team, though Mane's 25 per cent conversion rate is significantly better than the Egyptian's 17 per cent.

All three have a habit of being decisive when it matters too. No one in the entire league has scored more winning goals than Salah (seven), though Mane and Firmino are just behind him with six.

Similarly, Mane's 15 goals have led to 18 points, a Premier League-high in 2019-20.

Liverpool have been utterly ruthless this season, their remarkable 23-point cushion after 31 matches undeniable proof of their relentlessness and brilliance.

Having achieved levels of consistency that have effectively never been seen before in the Premier League era, one has to wonder what it will take to stop Klopp's Reds.

Liverpool have finally ended their wait for a breakthrough Premier League title, securing top-flight silverware for the first time since 1990.

Jurgen Klopp's men led the way as early as August and never relinquished their grasp on first place.

Unlike in the near misses in 2008-09, 2013-14 and 2018-19, the Reds would not be caught, with Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake.

City's 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Thursday clinched the championship, but there were a number of key results along the way. We take a look.
 

Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City - September 14

Pep Guardiola's side blinked first in the title race. Although City had already dropped points at home to Tottenham before visiting Norwich, it appeared the defending champions would again match Liverpool stride for stride. But one of the upsets of the season sent shockwaves through the division in matchweek five.

City lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee ligament injury the previous weekend, and John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi endured a miserable evening as Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki scored at Carrow Road. Liverpool had earlier come from behind to beat Newcastle United, establishing a strong early advantage.

Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool - September 28

Liverpool did eventually drop points for the first time against Manchester United in October, but their winning start continued to that point despite a serious test against newly promoted Sheffield United.

The Blades have been a surprise package this season and were perhaps good value for a point against Klopp's men, only for an uncharacteristic error by goalkeeper Dean Henderson - on loan from rivals United - to gift Georginio Wijnaldum a precious 70th-minute winner.

Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool - November 2

It is often said that the best teams win even when they do not play well, and the victory at Sheffield United was far from unique in that sense. Indeed, at Villa Park, Liverpool were heading for defeat until the 87th minute.

However, Andy Robertson stole in for a late equaliser, and then Sadio Mane incredibly clinched victory in the fourth minute of stoppage time. It was the second such comeback from the Reds in two weeks, having previously rallied against Tottenham at Anfield in a crucial stretch that included a dramatic win over Leicester City and their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City - November 10

And eight days on from the win at Villa, Liverpool increased their lead at the top of the table to eight points with victory over City, who were left a further point back in fourth. With the Reds' failure to beat Guardiola's side home or away in 2018-19 proving costly, this success represented a huge boost.

The match was not without its controversies, however, as City fumed at an apparent Trent Alexander-Arnold handball in the build-up to Fabinho's opener. The right-back looked to be guilty of the same offence again late in the game, with no penalty given, as Mohamed Salah and Mane also netted in a mammoth triumph.

Liverpool 2-0 Watford - December 14

Along with the run of fixtures leading into that City game, December represented a key spell for Liverpool as their title bid was disrupted by the Club World Cup. Watford would be the side to finally beat the Reds in February and, in the final match before the FIFA tournament, they gave it a good go at Anfield, too.

Nigel Pearson's first game in charge of the Hornets saw Liverpool troubled throughout, and not until Salah struck his second in the 90th minute were the points made safe.

Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool - December 26

Liverpool won the Club World Cup in Qatar, but it was like they had never been away when their league campaign resumed on Boxing Day. Leicester were second when the teams met but were blown away on their own patch.

Roberto Firmino opened the scoring before the break and then netted again, along with James Milner and Alexander-Arnold, in a ruthless eight-minute second-half spell. City lost at Wolves the following day - their second defeat of December - and the title race already looked to have been run.

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City - February 2

Liverpool were relentless over the festive period, and their rivals' struggles meant Klopp's side could even afford a slow restart following the February mid-season break. Any slim City hopes of a spectacular pursuit of the Anfield club were surely already over in defeat at Tottenham prior to the weekend off.

Ilkay Gundogan missed a penalty, Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off, and Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min netted. Bernardo Silva subsequently moaned City "gave up a bit too soon" in the title race. When Guardiola's men went down 2-0 again at Manchester United a month later, Liverpool were on the brink.

Manchester City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday saw Liverpool crowned Premier League champions.

It ends a 30-year wait to reign supreme in England's top flight for the Anfield club and means Jurgen Klopp's stars will be rightly celebrated.

Becoming champions with seven matches to spare underlines the dominant nature of a campaign masterminded by their brilliant manager.

As such, a host of Liverpool players are expected to be in the running for the end-of-season awards.

But which of Klopp's heroes has been the most important to the cause? Here, our writers pick out who has been the star turn and state their case.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD – Dom Farrell

The majestic front three and the defensive solidity acquired through the astute big-money purchases of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are the twin pillars of this Liverpool triumph, but Trent Alexander-Arnold gives them their x-factor. Shut down Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino if you can, but then find yourself terrorised by a lavishly talented youngster who might yet redefine what the modern full-back looks like.

Lethal from both open play and dead ball situations, the 21-year-old has been the Reds' main creative force this term and it's not even particularly close. Andy Robertson is second to Alexander-Arnold's 12 assists with eight, while the right-back's 78 chances created dwarf the next best return – 49 from Salah.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Ryan Benson

Van Dijk has been the one ever-present for Liverpool this season, starting every single Premier League match. The Dutchman leads the way for clean sheets in the division with 14.

Throughout the campaign he has been the ultimate assuring presence at the back, from his exceptional reading of the game, dominant physicality and fine technical ability. While Salah, Mane and Firmino may be responsible for most of the goals, they would also be significantly worse off without Van Dijk, whose impact at Anfield continues to amaze.

JORDAN HENDERSON – Rob Lancaster

If Van Dijk is the Rolls Royce at the back and the forward trio are sports cars capable of going from 0-60mph in a hurry, Jordan Henderson is the equivalent to a five-door family hatchback. Flashy? No. Supremely reliable? Absolutely. 

Under Klopp, the Reds' win percentage is almost 13 per cent higher (68.8 per cent compared to 56) when Henderson plays. Their only league defeat so far this season, away to Watford, came without the skipper in the line-up.

The midfielder has contributed in attack, providing five assists and grabbing three goals in 2019-20, but that's not his major purpose. Henderson knows his role and plays it to perfection, serving as the manager's on-field lieutenant as he passes and presses relentlessly to help break opposition teams down. Having lifted the Champions League last season, now he has captained Liverpool to domestic glory too.

SADIO MANE – Joe Wright

It's often said the mark of champions is to win not just when playing well, but when victory seems beyond you. Sometimes – if not often – Liverpool have been up against it and in need of a saviour. More often than not, that saviour has been Sadio Mane. 

Mane has been Liverpool's most impressive attacking player all season, his all-round game now honed to a frighteningly high level that has produced 15 goals and seven assists. Those goals have been undeniably crucial, yielding 18 points in 2019-20, a tally nobody in the Premier League can better. If ever Liverpool looked likely to falter, Mane's goals kept them on course.

MOHAMED SALAH – Liam Blackburn

Salah's prolific debut season following his arrival from Roma – he scored 44 goals in all competitions in 2017-18 – raised the bar ridiculously high. Even in the previous campaign, no one scored more in the Premier League than the Egyptian's 22 and he is once again Liverpool's leading marksman in 2019-20.  

His total of 21 goals in all competitions sees him average one every 146 minutes, while no one in the Premier League has scored more than Salah's seven match-winners.

However, Salah is about more than just goals. He has created 49 chances and provided seven assists. Liverpool's struggles to break down a stubborn Everton defence when the 28-year-old remained on the bench throughout their first game after the lockdown only underlined his importance.

Mohamed Salah said Liverpool's time to win the Premier League had come after their resounding 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane at Anfield saw Jurgen Klopp's men take another step towards a first league title in 30 years.

Liverpool could be crowned champions on Thursday if Manchester City fail to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Salah is thrilled to have Liverpool just two points away from a first league crown since 1990.

"I feel great," he told Sky Sports.

"Since I came here I said I want to win the Premier League with the team. The city didn't win it for a long time, so it was the right time.

"Maybe last year we had a chance to win it but Man City also performed really good and they deserved to win it. It's our time to win it and it's great."

Liverpool were dominant against Palace on their way to a 28th win in 31 league games this season.

Salah hailed the performance, with Liverpool now not in action again until July 2, when they visit City.

"We had a great performance today and all the players were unbelievable," the forward said.

"I'm happy about the result and looking forward to the next two games.

"I think all the players are motivated, everyone is motivated in his way – but everyone is motivated to win the league."

Liverpool moved a step closer to clinching their first title in the Premier League era with a resounding 4-0 triumph over Crystal Palace.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's delightful free-kick midway through the first half set Jurgen Klopp's side on the way as they maintained their 100 per cent league record at Anfield this season.

A 16th straight home victory in the competition in 2019-20, albeit this one coming inside an empty stadium due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, was wrapped up just prior to half-time by the returning Mohamed Salah.

Liverpool will now wait to see if Manchester City keep them waiting into July to end a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again; Pep Guardiola's side must win at Chelsea on Thursday to remain in the hunt, mathematically at least.

Palace were the last away team to triumph at Anfield in the Premier League, back in April 2017, though hopes of a repeat suffered an early blow when an already depleted visiting line-up lost the talismanic Wilfried Zaha to injury. 

Their cause was also not helped either by facing opponents clearly determined to do better after a Sunday stalemate against neighbours Everton. 

Georginio Wijnaldum had already spurned a glorious opportunity before Alexander-Arnold's sublime set-piece strike broke the deadlock, the full-back lifting the ball over the Palace wall and beyond Wayne Hennessey's desperate dive.

Fabinho's delightful pass picked out Salah's run in behind to lift the ball over the Palace goalkeeper in the 44th minute, while the Brazilian went for power to thump in a stunning third from distance 10 minutes into the second half.

Jurgen Klopp admits Liverpool holding a 20-point lead over Manchester City is "pretty unthinkable" after watching Pep Guardiola's side thrash Burnley.

The reigning Premier League champions followed up a 3-0 win over Arsenal in the first game back following the coronavirus-enforced break to the season with another impressive display on Monday.

City scored five without reply to brush aside Burnley and, with Liverpool only able to manage a 0-0 draw in Sunday's Merseyside derby, the Reds' huge cushion at the summit has been reduced.

Klopp's side get the chance to respond on Wednesday when they host Crystal Palace at Anfield, with a first league title in 30 years within touching distance ahead of a trip to the Etihad Stadium on July 2.

"The only thing I realised from watching the game last night was how is it possible that anybody is 20 points ahead of this team? That's pretty much unthinkable, actually," Klopp told the media.

"So we must have done, obviously, a couple of things really well and right that we can have the situation here.  

"But, no, I don't think about City catching us, or whatever. I think about Crystal Palace. 

"I watched them because we play them in eight or nine days, and not watching them to hope that they lose – it was never like this.  

"Maybe I wanted them to lose last season against Leicester, but that didn't work very well so that's why I stopped doing that. That was one time and it didn't help. 

"I respect them a lot, I've said that plenty of times. They look like they will win all their remaining games because they are really strong, but they were always strong. 

"We are not so bad, so let's think about that."

Mohamed Salah – who was an unused substitute – and Andy Robertson were not involved in the stalemate at Goodison Park due to fitness concerns, though Klopp confirmed both could feature against Palace.

However, James Milner and Joel Matip are ruled out after the pair were forced off with injuries against Everton.

"[Salah] trained yesterday completely normal, he will train today completely normal I would guess and then he is available. What I make with the line-up, you have to wait until tomorrow," Klopp said on Tuesday.

"It is the same with Robbo; he trained yesterday completely normal as well, so it's the same.

"Millie and Joel will not be available for tomorrow. We have to figure out exactly how long it will take, but tomorrow they will not play."

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah's agent denied claims made by an ex-coach that Real Madrid tried to sign the forward in 2018.

Former Egypt international Hany Ramzy said on Saturday Salah had discussed an approach from Madrid with then national team boss Hector Cuper during a March 2018 training camp in Switzerland.

Ramzy told Egyptian television channel OnTimes Sports that he was present and also party to the conversation, even though he only joined the coaching staff under Cuper's successor Javier Aguirre.

But Salah's agent, Ramy Abbas Issa, rubbished the claims via Twitter on Sunday.

"Mohamed never discussed any career plans with any ex-coach," he wrote.

Salah enjoyed a stellar 2017-18 campaign, scoring 32 Premier League goals and supplying 10 assists.

Jurgen Klopp's men went on to lose 3-1 to Madrid in the Champions League final in that season, with Salah substituted early after a tussle with Sergio Ramos.

Salah has scored 91 goals in 144 games since arriving at Liverpool from Roma in 2017.

He helped Liverpool sit 25 points clear atop the Premier League table when the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Real Madrid made an offer to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in the months leading up to their 2018 Champions League final clash, according to a former member of coaching staff for the Egypt national team.

Salah enjoyed a stellar 2017-18 campaign, scoring 32 Premier League goals and supplying 10 assists.

However, his bid for European glory with the Reds ended in heartbreak, after a tussle with Sergio Ramos saw him depart the final in Kiev with an injured shoulder.

Jurgen Klopp's men went on to lose 3-1 and Salah embarked on a race against time to be fit for Egypt's World Cup campaign in Russia.

The ex-Roma forward scored twice but the Pharaohs lost every game as they bowed out limply at the group stage.

According to former Egypt international Hany Ramzy, Salah discussed an approach from Madrid with then national team boss Hector Cuper during a March 2018 training camp in Switzerland.

Ramzy told Egyptian television channel OnTimes Sports that he was present and also party to the conversation, even though he only joined the coaching staff under Cuper's successor Javier Aguirre.

"I was talking to Salah and he told me that Real Madrid sent him an offer," he said.

"The offer was really good, but Salah discussed it with me and Mr. Cuper, and he decided to stay with Liverpool because he was comfortable there."

Ramzy left the Egypt setup along with all of Aguirre's staff when they were dismissed in the aftermath of a last-16 exit from the African Cup of Nations on home soil last year.

Nevertheless, Salah retains huge ambitions in the continental tournament.

"Salah is ambitious. He told us that he wanted to win AFCON three times in a row, as Egypt did in 2006, 2008, 2010," Ramzy added.

Timo Werner is heavily linked with a move to Liverpool, but how could the forward fit at the Premier League giants?

Werner, 24, is reportedly prioritising Jurgen Klopp's side, having starred for RB Leipzig this season.

The Germany international said in February he was proud to be linked to Liverpool, who won the Champions League last season and were dominating the Premier League this campaign before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Klopp has Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino at his disposal already and the trio are widely regarded as one of the best attacks in the world.

We use Opta data to assess Werner and the trio, and look at the forward in comparison to Firmino's final season in the Bundesliga before joining Liverpool.

 

Prolific Werner could add something different

Werner has scored 21 goals, including three penalties, in 25 Bundesliga games this season, with Leipzig – who are third in the table – heavily reliant on the forward. Liverpool have less of a reliance on one player, with Salah (16), Mane (14) and Firmino (eight) netting 38 between them in the Premier League. That means Werner has scored a goal every 97.6 minutes in the Bundesliga, far better than the best of Liverpool's trio – Salah at 140.4. Werner also leads the four players in the Champions League with a goal every 144.8 minutes.

He has also had the most 'big chances' with 29, and converted quite well in the Bundesliga. Werner has converted 48.3 per cent of his 'big chances', with only Salah (61.9) bettering that, and Mane (34.8) and Firmino (20.8) well below.

Salah has created the most 'big chances' of the quartet with 12, although it is only narrowly ahead of the rest with Werner sitting at 10, Firmino on nine and Mane on seven. However, Salah has just six assists compared to seven for each of the other three.

Firmino's contribution beyond just goals

Sometimes questioned for his lack of goals, Firmino's movement and work rate are lauded at Liverpool. The Brazilian has won possession in the final third 27 times in the Premier League this season, with Werner (18) below Firmino, Salah (23) and Mane (21). Werner has won possession in the final third just once in eight Champions League games, falling behind the other three with Salah (six) leading the way.

Firmino is also a more successful dribbler than the rest, completing 48 of 81 at 59.3 per cent in the league, with the other three below 55 per cent. Interestingly, Werner has struggled in this department in the Champions League, completing just seven of 21, well behind Firmino (18 of 28).

Werner delivering as Firmino did before move

Firmino joined Liverpool from Hoffenheim in 2015 for a reported £29million, far less than the apparent £52m they would have to pay for Werner. Firmino turned 23 during his final Bundesliga season, while Werner celebrated his 24th birthday this campaign. So how does Firmino's last Bundesliga campaign compare to Werner this season?

During the 2014-15 season, Firmino scored seven goals and provided 10 assists in 33 Bundesliga games, while Werner has 21 and seven respectively in his 25. The Brazil international's numbers were impacted, however, by hitting the woodwork an extraordinary five times. It means Werner's 'big chance' conversion (48.3 per cent) is better than Firmino's was (30.8), although how different they are is again highlighted. Firmino created 67 chances from open play in that campaign, while Werner is up to 35. Firmino also won possession in the final third 28 times compared to Werner's 18. And while Werner has a better dribble success rate (54.1 to 53.6), Firmino attempted an incredible 261 compared to Werner's 85.

Werner has plenty to offer, and he can add a different dynamic – and plenty of depth – to an already stellar attack at Liverpool, potentially even creating a spectacular front four if Firmino drops in to play as a number 10.

The pause in the football calendar (except in Belarus, of course) gives players across Europe plenty of time to reflect on their efforts so far this season.

While some have a few things to work on when matches return, there are others for whom 2019-20 has been a showcase of the very best they have to offer.

In the latest piece in our series, we look at the best-performing forwards in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.

Goals might be the most obvious (and fundamentally important) of metrics for these players, but the number of times the ball crosses that white line is not the only measure of their quality.

To that end, we have also examined seven other parameters: minutes-per-goal rate, shots on target, shooting accuracy, shot conversion rate, big chance conversion rate, dribbles completed and dribble success rate. And these are for those players to make at least 10 league appearances this season, to avoid any unfair imbalance in the results (we're looking at you, Florin Andone).

Without further ado, we present the most ruthless forwards elite-level football in Europe has to offer...

THE MOST RUTHLESS FORWARDS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

 

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals scored: Robert Lewandowski (25)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Robert Lewandowski (81.7)
Most shots on target: Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Marcus Thuram (76.3 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Paco Alcacer (35.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Rouwen Hennings (71.4 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Marcus Thuram (57)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Lucas Alario (83.3 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Lionel Messi (99.5)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Lionel Messi (68.9 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Lucas Perez (40.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Charles (83.3 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Lionel Messi (118)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Pione Sisto (76.9 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most goals scored: Kylian Mbappe and Wissam Ben Yedder (18)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Kylian Mbappe (84.1)
Most shots on target: Kylian Mbappe (49)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Mauro Icardi (37.5 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Moussa Dembele (72.2 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Neymar (90)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Zaydou Youssouf (85.7 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most goals scored: Jamie Vardy (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Sergio Aguero (87.6)
Most shots on target: Mohamed Salah (43)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Anthony Martial (68.2 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (36.2 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Harry Kane (70 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Cristiano Ronaldo (53)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Romelu Lukaku (65.5 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Jeremie Boga (106)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Sergio Floccari (72.2 per cent)

AND THE TOP EIGHT:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.