The battle between Jordi Alba and Mo Salah could decide the Champions League tie between Barcelona and Liverpool.
The duo represents key outlets in both of their teams. Salah as Liverpool’s biggest goal threat, and Alba as Barcelona’s attacking width.
And by sheer chance, their battle could be decisive on Wednesday. If either were on the other side, things would be far simpler.
Alba, who joined for £11.2m in 2012, tends to attack from deep with pace, for instance, while Sergi Roberto, on Barca’s other flank, is a little more cautious. Alba is enough of a threat that ex-Liverpool man Danny Murphy believes stopping him is as key as stopping Lionel Messi.
Similarly, when defending, £34m Mo Salah prefers to stay up high while Sadio Mane, on the other side, is happy to drop back and help out his fullback.
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That’s not to say that Salah doesn’t defend, of course – he’s more than happy to chase back and stop a counter-attack. But when it comes to defensive shape, he doesn’t offer much protection for the right-back. Instead of Salah, the right-sided midfielder generally covers the full-back once Mane is back in line.
If Alba were up against Mane, the battle would be different. They’d track each other, potentially marking themselves out of the game.
Alba vs Salah, however, is the opposite. Alba will push on, Salah won’t want to chase, instead trying to take advantage of the space left behind. So does the Spaniard withhold his runs? Or does he gamble that Salah can’t afford to let him run free?
There will be times where one gambles when they shouldn’t have and it will open up opportunities. It really could be where things are won and lost. Both the strengths and weaknesses of one play into the other – and Alba vs Salah will surely be the most interesting battle on the pitch as a result.