Paul Merson has it spot on - 'World class' Liverpool star holds key to beating Man City in title six-pointer

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The pundit has claimed that Mo Salah could decide Sunday's Premier League title showdown.

We're not quite at a point where the winner takes it all, but we're certainly flirting with the notion that the loser will be left standing small in this tetchiest of Premier League title races. On Sunday afternoon, Liverpool play Manchester City at Anfield in the very definition of a six-pointer; the Reds could open up a four-point lead over the defending champions with a timely win, the visitors could leapfrog their hosts at the summit with a victory of their own. And all the while Arsenal lurk in the shadows, praying for a sharing of the spoils.

Traditionally, calling encounters between Liverpool and City has not been an easy thing to do. Over the course of their past five meetings, each have won twice, with a draw back in November splitting the tale of the tape precisely down the middle.

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But few clashes between the Reds and the Blues have had as much directly riding on them as Sunday's showdown. The margins are likely to be fine, the repercussions potentially ruinous. And Paul Merson believes that Mohamed Salah's presence could be the factor that decides it all.

Speaking about the Liverpool talisman on Sky Sports News, the renowned pundit said: "I just think he's world class. He's one of the best players in the world of football. I think you look at Man City, probably their Achilles' heel is going to be down the left with [Jeremy] Doku and [Nathan] Ake. I thought Ake fell asleep a couple of times [in last weekend's Manchester derby].

"Salah's the best runner without the ball in the world of football, in my opinion. He makes runs without the ball. I think he'll be a threat. The lad Doku, I'm not his biggest fan if I'm being honest, I'm not his biggest fan. I think [Conor] Bradley and Salah, if he plays down there, will get the better of them, and I think that's their Achilles' heel. They will close from the front, it lifts the fans even more. I just think if Salah plays, they win. If he isn't playing, I'm not sure they'll win the game, but with him playing, I'd be quite shocked if they didn't win."

It is hard to disagree with Merson's sentiment. Salah, at his best, is a difference-maker. The Egyptian King possesses both the ability and the cunning to punish even the steadiest of defensive lines, and with 19 goals and 10 assists to his name already this season, he is operating at something akin to full throttle.

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More to the point, City are not wholly infallible. As Manchester United proved, fleetingly, last weekend, they can be exploited by the odd speculative ball in behind, and if Salah is willing to play on the shoulder and gamble a little, it is easy to envisage a situation, or several situations, in which he finds himself in advantageous attacking positions. From there, we all know what generally tends to happen.

Of course, the real litmus test for whether or not the 31-year-old will feature on Sunday is likely to come on Thursday evening; Liverpool will face Sparta Prague in the Europa League, and the expectation, according to Jurgen Klopp, is that Salah, returning from injury, should be available to play some role in that clash. Speaking about his star man prior to the match, the Anfield boss said: 'Mo has travelled with us. He's trained for two days and is full of energy; we have to see, but it is so good he is back. He is so happy. We want to be careful, but this is a super intense period of the season.'

Assuming he does make an appearance, and assuming he comes through it unscathed, there is no reason to believe that Salah won't start against City. That would be a notable blow to Pep Guardiola's side, and not least because Merson is absolutely right - the Liverpool icon could be the key.

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