Sunday’s early kick off in the Premier League this week will see struggling Fulham travel to face Liverpool at Anfield in what promises to be an explosive encounter. In truth, Jurgen Klopp’s side are yet to really get going this season despite being 3rd in the Premier League whilst Fulham are rooted to the table with just one win and five points from 11 games.
It’s a huge game for both sides as neither side wants to go into the international break off the back of a defeat and both sides have players that could turn this game in their favour in Aleksandar Mitrovic and Roberto Firmino. The two number nines who have very different roles will be the men that both Klopp and Slavisa Jokanovic will be relying on to deliver in this crunch tie on Merseyside.
Starting with Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Fulham man made one hell of a first impression on the Craven Cottage faithful when he signed on-loan in January and scored no end of important goals to see The Cottagers gain promotion via the playoffs. Then with the injection of Premier League money, the Serbian made his loan move a permanent one for the bargain price of just £22 million, a modest fee in today’s extortionate market.
During his time in London, Mitro has enjoyed life much more than he did in the Northeast and with a manager willing to play to his strengths he’s bagged himself an impressive 17 goals in 32 appearances, including five in the Premier League in his 11 appearances this season. If Fulham do manage to get out of the drop zone and stay up there’s no doubting that Mitrovic will be the man to inspire it, and if he does keep them up he’ll have paid off his transfer fee.
From Serbia to Brazil, Roberto Firmino is the Anfield star who the Reds will be looking to this weekend. Whilst the 27-year-old wears the number nine shirt and plays as a lone striker at times, he’s not the number nine that English football fans have come to know. Instead, Liverpool’s £29 million import from Hoffenheim plays very differently. The Brazilian drops deep and pulls wide to make space for those around him and has perfected his role at Anfield.
Considering the impact that Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have around Firmino, it’s understandable that his game isn’t all about goals, but the fact he has just 38 goals in 114 Premier League appearances is a stat that could do with some work. If Liverpool are to fulfil their potential as title contenders then Firmino’s output will have to improve and he could take notes from Mitrovic on Sunday in the way that Serbian is all about goals.
Whilst both players promise to be absolutely crucial to their respective team’s season, it’s Aleksandar Mitrovic who comes out on top of this transfer battle. Firmino’s false nine role proves effective at Anfield but without him in the side, Liverpool still thrive whereas without Mitrovic Fulham have no-one to provide a clinical touch. Now it’s just a waiting game to see who comes out on top on Sunday lunchtime when the two meet on Merseyside.