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BOBBY DAZZLER

Roberto Firmino back in contention for Dream Team bosses until AFCON assets return

Liverpool were give a momentary scare on Sunday when Shrewsbury took the lead in the FA Cup third round tie at Anfield.

However, that was as far as the magic extended as the Reds rallied to beat the League One side 4-1 to ensure progression in a competition that has generally frustrated Jurgen Klopp.

Roberto Firmino (£3.8m) came off the bench midway through the second half and scored a back heel from close range to make it 3-1 and remove the last vestige of jeopardy for the hosts.

It may not have been the most important goal of the Brazilian’s career but it was a timely strike given the task at hand this month.

Vintage Firmino

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Vintage Firmino

With Sadio Mane (£4.6m) and Mohamed Salah (£8.2m) on international duty for Senegal and Egypt respectively during the Africa Cup on Nations, Firmino will be expected to play a key role in the coming weeks.

The 30-year-old has only completed 90 minutes once since he picked up an injury against Atletico Madrid in October but if Klopp’s side are to gain ground on Man City in the Premier League title race, he will have to dovetail with Diogo Jota (£5.1m) seamlessly.

Naturally then, Firmino is once again a potentially viable option for Dream Team gaffers.

It’s easy to overlook the fact Liverpool’s No9 was enjoying an impressive season before his lay-off.

Everyone knows by now that goals are almost secondary where Firmino is involved – primarily he exists to link the front three into a cohesive unit.

While this remains true, goals have flowed easily for him when he’s been on the pitch this season.

Liverpool will have to lean on their No9 in Salah and Mane’s absence

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Liverpool will have to lean on their No9 in Salah and Mane’s absence

In fact, he’s averaging a goal every 104 minutes in 2021/22 across all competitions.

If you add in assists, he’s producing a goal involvement every 73 minutes – a statistic that should attract any self-respecting Dream Team manager.

Despite the fact Firmino has only started four league games this campaign, he’s just 11 points off Dream Team’s top ten forwards.

Obviously the fixture list is subject to change more than ever in the current environment but Liverpool are scheduled to play Arsenal (x2), Brentford, Crystal Palace and Cardiff before the AFCON final.

How many points will Jota and Firmino produce across those games?

It’s important to note that the Portugal international has an ownership of 27.5% whereas the Brazilian appears in just 2.5% of teams.

Those in need of a differential should consider Firmino over Jota, although the drastic option of selecting both also has potential.