Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino - Europe's best front three?
Last Updated: 18/09/18 10:56pm
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have become a feared force across Europe, but are they the best attacking trio in the world? We take a look at the competition and ask you to cast your vote below…
The Champions League is back, and with a blockbuster of a clash between last year's finalists Liverpool and French champions Paris Saint-Germain to get us up and running.
Tuesday's encounter at Anfield pits two of Europe's most exhilarating forward lines against each other, but who possesses the very best triumvirate? Are there better strike trios elsewhere in Europe? Scroll down to vote for your pick!
Liverpool - Firmino, Salah, Mane
It was not just the Premier League that brought the best out of Firmino, Salah and Mane last season. In 2017/18 Liverpool became the first team to have three players - Salah, Mane and Firmino - score 10 or more goals each in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign, on top of their combined 57 league goals.
The Champions League quarter-final clash with Premier League champions Manchester City is where fans were treated to Liverpool at their high-octane best. Jurgen Klopp's terrifying trio scored four times between them over the two legs, but it was Liverpool's relentless running and pressing that blew City away early on at Anfield in the first leg.
"You go back to Barcelona at their very best, you sat back and enjoyed their passing and moving football - but it was easy to overlook their work-rate," Sky Sports Graeme Souness said after Liverpool's win over Tottenham at the weekend.
"It's the same with this Liverpool team. You admire the goals and creativity but can overlook the intensity they play."
While Mane has begun this season in fine fettle with four goals to his name, Salah has so far been unable to replicate his heroics of last season as he, and Firmino, have found the net just twice each. No disaster at this stage, but having set the standard last season, simply continuing in the same vein will be the minimum expected by Klopp.
PSG - Neymar, Mbappe, Cavani
Another year, another Ligue 1 domination by the world's most expensive forward line in 2017/18. This season, both Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have been used sparingly by new PSG boss Thomas Tuchel but, of course, Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani have still scored 12 goals between them already, more than 17 other Ligue 1 clubs after five games.
The three compliment each other perfectly. Cavani is the focal point in the middle, and loves a goal against English clubs, having scored eight goals in 14 appearances in the Champions League against teams from England.
Neymar brings the sublime skill and finesse, having delivered 15 assists over the last three seasons in the Champions League, three more than any other player [Cristiano Ronaldo 12), with dynamo Mbappe causing many a problem on the other flank.
PSG's problem, partly down to their attacking trio, has been replicating their league form on the continent. They have just one Champions League semi-final appearance to their name, in 1994/95. Last campaign, spearheaded by goals from their forwards, the group stage showed promise, but Real Madrid proved insurmountable in the last 16. One goal over both legs from their front three said it all.
Juventus - Ronaldo, Dybala, Mandzukic
There is one big reason why Juventus have to be considered challengers for this season's Champions League. The capture of the Champions League's all-time top goalscorer Ronaldo certainly turned heads in the summer, with many fascinated to see if the 33-year-old can still produce heroics. With 15 goals in last season's competition, five more than anyone else, there's plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Paulo Dybala has failed to show his best form alongside Lionel Messi for Argentina, but could have been saving it for his compatriot's nemesis. Only four players created more chances in the Champions League than Dybala last season, service Ronaldo will relish.
Mario Mandzukic is not getting any younger, but proved that even after being forced through three successive extra times in the World Cup for the summer, he still has plenty to offer in front of goal.
Barcelona - Messi, Dembele, Suarez
Compared to his usual super-human efforts, Messi's goal return last season was not anything particularly special, having scored just six goals from 10 appearances on the continent.
However, normal service has been resumed this season in La Liga, with Messi sitting atop the scoring charts. As usual, Messi has a team-mate alongside him at the top of the charts, but not just the usual protagonist.
Ousmane Dembele has as many [three] goals already this season as he managed in a injury-ravaged campaign in 2017/18, the same as two-time Golden Boot winner Luis Suarez. Both will have to improve on their solitary strikes in last season's Champions League if Barca are to go all the way.
Real Madrid - Benzema, Asensio and Bale
How do you fill a void the size of Ronaldo? Well, when you have a burgeoning talent like Marco Asensio waiting in the wings, it is pretty straight forward. Against World Cup finalists Croatia last week, Asensio became only the second player in the last 10 years to assist three goals for Spain in one game - his goal in that 6-0 win was not bad either.
Ronaldo's departure has opened the door for Bale to become the main man in the Spanish capital. With four champions League crowns, it has hardly been a torrid time for Bale to date, but there is still the lingering feeling that despite his double in the final last year, there is still so much more to come from him.
Karim Benzema has had his fair share of criticism over the years, but has started this season in fine form, leading the La Liga scoring charts alongside Messi with four goals.
Manchester City - Sterling, Aguero, Sane
As Manchester City sauntered to a record-breaking Premier League success last season, the goals flowed from all around. Sergio Aguero remained the attacking figurehead, but there was more than commendable support in that role from Gabriel Jesus.
Only Kevin De Bruyne accrued more Premier League assists last campaign than Leroy Sane, while Raheem Sterling enjoyed his best goalscoring season by a long, long way. On the continent, Sterling has scored eight goals and delivered six assists in his last 15 Champions League starts for City.
However, while Liverpool's front three were breaking European goalscoring records, City's first-choice forward line managed 12 goals between them before Liverpool sent City crashing out at the last-eight stage. To be considered an elite club, City must mount a serious tilt for a maiden European crown, and goals from their prolific trio up will help their cause no end.