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Liverpool v City: Key battles

CONTROL: Gabriel Jesus brings the ball down

CONTROL: Gabriel Jesus brings the ball down

Two of Europe’s most exciting teams meet in a Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday evening.

Anfield is set to host a mouth-watering clash as Manchester City, on the cusp of a Premier League title and earning plaudits across the continent, face the competition's top scorers, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Much has been made of Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah’s battle for Player of the Year honours, but there’ll be a host of in form players going head to head across the pitch.

Here, we consider the impact of the potential key battles…

Aymeric Laporte v Mohamed Salah

Perhaps the most important duel of all.

The Egyptian winger is in red hot form and Pep Guardiola has already spoken of the threat he carries.

Laporte was deployed in a left-back role for the first time against Everton on Saturday and if it was a test, it’s one he passed.

Guardiola could well opt for a similar strategy across Stanley Park and while the Frenchman’s quality on the ball is well known, it will be his pace, strength and positional sense which will be most useful as he tries to negate Salah’s menace.

READ: Liverpool v City - Expert view

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Kevin De Bruyne v Jordan Henderson

De Bruyne was clapped off by the home support at Everton and the Liverpool skipper will hope to deliver the kind of performance which ensures he does not receive the same treatment from the Anfield crowd.

The Belgian joins Salah at the top of the pre-match billing, by virtue of being one of the Premier League's most impressive performers and as we reach the business end of the season, the hope is that he can raise his level yet again.

He'll be pivotal to City, both in attack and defensively, but it is in the final third where he'll likely encounter Henderson.

A tireless campaigner in the Reds' engine room, the Sunderland native should be tasked with preventing De Bruyne from hitting full stride in his surging runs and from releasing defence splitting balls like he did in the 5-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

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Gabriel Jesus v Virgil Van Dijk

It remains to be seen whether Sergio Aguero is fit enough for selection so goal scoring responsibilities could again fall to Jesus.

His willing running and intuitive movement will be most welcome against one of the most fluid teams in the league and up against Van Dijk, a defender lauded for his talents on the ball, Jesus could be crucial in preventing the Reds from playing out from the back.

There’s much more to his game than work-rate though and as he proved at Everton, if you put the ball in the right area, he will find the back of the net.

Fernandinho v Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Oxlade-Chamberlain has enjoyed something of a renaissance since his summer arrival and his energy is perfect for the brand of football encouraged by Klopp.

He’s another player Guardiola has highlighted as one to stop, with the England midfielder instrumental in knitting together the sort of counter attacks from which Liverpool’s much lauded front three prosper.

Enter Fernandinho.

The Brazilian has the pace, stamina and most importantly, the know-how to limit Oxlade-Chamberlain’s impact.

It’s a role he’s performed countless times and in what will no doubt be a high-intensity game, the calm, uncomplicated manner in which he goes about his work will be vital.

Leroy Sane v Trent Alexander-Arnold

While Salah is, understandably, the winger of which most of the pre-match attention is focused on, the man performing the same role on the same side of the pitch should not be overlooked.

Sane has emerged as one of the Premier League’s most exciting talents.

He’s proved he can do it in the big games – he was sublime against Arsenal at the Emirates – and he will be hoping to torment young Trent Alexander-Arnold with his trademark slaloming runs.

Given the German’s form, it is an area City could look to exploit, but Alexander-Arnold, a product of the Reds’ famed Kirkby-based academy, has looked assured at this level and is blessed with pace to match Sane.

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Wednesday night’s Champions League quarter-final has filled many column inches.