Summertime reports implied Manchester United’s hat was firmly in the ring to sign Roberto Firmino before he arrived at Liverpool and with the great rivals now set for battle in Europe, the Brazilian could have a big say on the tie.
Going by Firmino’s early showings, the Old Trafford hierarchy and United fans alike might well have been relieved that a bullet had been dodged, especially as their own marquee purchase (ironically linked strongly to Liverpool), began with a bang.
However, in a clear reversal of fortunes, as the cold began to set in Memphis Depay disappeared into his snood and Firmino began warming to his task under the pressure of a hefty £29m price tag.
The former Hoffenheim star is far from flashy in the majority of his work, unlike the trick-loving Dutchman at Old Trafford, but he possesses a deft touch, a keen eye for a pass and a healthy radar for goal.
In fact, since the turn of the year, no Premier League player has been involved directly with more goals than Firmino.
There was certainly a touch of fortune to his last strike at Crystal Palace, although his first touch and finish were unerring and showed a player whose powers are peaking.
Liverpool’s versatile attacker has scored seven times in his last eight top-flight appearances and directly assisted seven league goals for his teammates since joining up.
He holds an obvious Samba synergy with compatriot Philippe Coutinho and along with another big-money signing, the trio’s fluid movement can cause United’s backline all kinds of trouble at Anfieldd in the first leg.
Having failed in large parts to justify his own price tag since switching from Southampton, Adam Lallana is finally showing his full array of talents in a Liverpool shirt, scoring twice in his last four games and earning man of the match status at Manchester City were blitzed 3-0.
Firmino is a 6/1 chance to get Liverpool on the scoreboard first in this titanic Europa League clash, while Lallana rates a 9/2 chance to continue his mini purple patch.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.