Premier League goalscoring machines Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland will go head-to-head on Sunday as Liverpool host reigning champions Manchester City at Anfield.
It is the current Premier League king, against the bold pretender to the throne. It is the clash of the goal-scoring aristocracy.
In the red corner is the monarch who has reigned in the Premier League for the past five seasons, the man who has obliterated the scoring records in a blizzard of goals.
Mohamed Salah is the Golden Boot winner in three of the past five years, and finished second on another occasion, just a single goal off top spot. The only time he finished outside the top two, was – ironically – in Liverpool’s title-winning season, when he still placed fifth.
No wonder they call him the Egyptian King, the undisputed best striker over the past half decade, and one whose name will undoubtedly go down in both Anfield, and English football legend.
He also holds the most important record of all: top scorer through a 38 game season, giving him the best season’s goals per game average of any striker to have graced the world’s strongest league. Until now.
Because in the blue corner is Erling Haaland, the centre forward who threatens to rewrite the art of goalscoring, the clinical hitman who threatens not to simply rewrite the record books, but to tear them up completely and start his own exclusive edition.
Salah’s 32 Premier League goals in his debut Liverpool season back in 2017-18 seemed like a record that would stand the test of time, a goalscoring feat that surpassed even the Premier League scoring greats like Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Andy Cole and Sergio Aguero.
Mohamed Salah has reigned supreme for Liverpool in recent years and returned to form on Wednesday night ( Image: Getty Images)
Yet if Haaland scores against Liverpool on Sunday, then incredibly – impossibly – he will be exactly halfway to that record…after just TEN matches.
He has 15 already, and three hat tricks, 20 in total. If he scores a couple at Anfield, then he will also be halfway to Salah’s record of 44 goals in a season, which he recorded in that remarkable debut Liverpool campaign after signing in the summer of 2017.
It is so astonishing it is almost depressing. The Norway striker has already not just broken, but obliterated the record of being fastest to three hat tricks…in just eight games. Which is 40 games faster than the previous holder, Michael Owen.
He is just one hat trick behind Salah, who has four in his five seasons in the Premier League…and ranks as the best goalscorer throughout that period. Again, just frightening.
Yet we are talking about hat-tricks for a reason. Salah scored his first ever Champions League hat-trick at Ibrox on Wednesday night, his treble against Rangers yet another record, as the fastest ever in the competition’s history, at six minutes and 12 seconds.
That is impressive enough, but it is what it means to the Reds superstar and his team in a campaign that has been so off key that it is almost inexplicable.
Salah had scored just four goals – or five if you include the Community Shield – all season before the visit to Glasgow, and only two in the Premier League.
Yet as his manager Jurgen Klopp so calmly pointed out after that remarkable cameo against the stunned Scottish side – where he only arrived as a substitute 22 minutes from the end, and tore Rangers to shreds – Salah is a streak player.
“Yes, of course we all know when Mo, when it is running for him, he is exceptional, absolutely exceptional. He is special,” Klopp said.
Of course, now I hope for him that everything works well from now on, like I hope for us. You could see the reaction to his goals. The relief was big and obviously all the efforts are paying off.”
When Salah starts scoring, he tends to go on long, formidable runs, and last season was a perfect example. He scored in 12 of his first 13 matches, and had a goal ruled out in the other one.
With that sort of form, even Haaland’s stunning feats this season don’t seem quite so off the scale. As Virgil van Dijk pointed out afterwards, his team-mate is the one striker in English football who can give Haaland a run for his money.
No one expects him to retain the Golden Boot this season, unless Haaland picks up a serious injury. But if Salah does go on a hot streak like last season, if the REAL Salah shows up once more, he is one of the world’s greatest strikers, period.
And if he does then Liverpool will still be eying honours even in this turbulent campaign.