Liverpool’s Premier League campaign kicks off with a trip to Vicarage Road to face a Watford side that they did the double over last season, with Emre Can scoring the goal of the season against them here just four months ago. So, how do the Reds line up ahead of this crucial opening day fixture?
Mignolet to get the nod
There’s absolutely no evidence that Jürgen Klopp won’t keep the faith in first choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who finished the 16/17 season very strongly. Whilst Mignolet has had his critics over his time in Liverpool, there are few Liverpool fans who would argue that he deserves the number one spot this year, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else lining up against Watford.
Trent’s big chance
Trent Alexander-Arnold looks set to start the season as Liverpool’s right-back in the absence of the injured Nathaniel Clyne. Whilst Clyne will surely slot back into the side once he’s fit, for now Liverpool will be relying on the 18 year-old to make a big impact after a strong pre-season.
On the opposite flank, it looks as if James Milner is the most likely candidate to continue as first choice left-back whilst Andrew Robertson gets settled. Robertson was probably bought with the intention of becoming Liverpool’s starting left-back but as he didn’t play much football in pre-season, Milner will be expected to play there. One other option is Alberto Moreno, who has apparently staked his claim to return to the side in pre-season, but it remains to be seen whether Klopp will suddenly trust him in such an important game. Milner is the safe bet.
Between Alexander-Arnold and Milner there should be no surprises, as Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip remain Klopp’s first choice central defenders, as there have been no additions yet in that area this summer, despite interest in Virgil Van Dijk.
Fully fit Hendo back to his best
Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson looks set to start the season back at the heart of midfield after an excellent pre-season having recovered from heel problems. Whilst having the skipper back will be a boost for Klopp, Adam Lallana and Phillipe Coutinho are both missing with a thigh and back injury respectively, which means that his midfield options are limited.
One man who will certainly start in Georginio Wijnaldum, who has gone under the radar in pre-season but remains absolutely pivotal to Klopp’s plans.
It’s expected that the third midfield spot will go to Can, but with the German midfielder having a disrupted and belated pre-season due to international commitments, Klopp might want to save one of his big names for the midweek game against Hoffenheim, if there’s any doubt over whether Can can play two games in four days. Should Klopp need him, Marko Grujić will be chomping at the bit to get a game.
Explosive front three
Where Liverpool will have real firepower is in their front three, with Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all fit and firing. Salah in particular has looked absolutely lightning fast in pre-season, and his fitness is without question, making him a nailed on starter. Likewise, Firmino was phenomenal in pre-season and looks more than capable of playing three games in a week, so is expected to start at the heart of Liverpool’s attack.
Mané is the one member of the front three who may well be rested for Hoffenheim, as much like Can, he had a shortened pre-season as he recovered from the injury that kept him out of the back end of last season. Nevertheless, in the absence of several key names, including Daniel Sturridge, Klopp will want his best available side out on the pitch to ensure the Reds get off to a flier. Should Mané be saved, it will be Divock Origi taking his place.
Predicted XI: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Mané, Salah, Firmino.