Liverpool 2018 - 19 Season Preview: Can Jürgen Klopp's Reds cement a serious title challenge?
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Liverpool 2018 - 19 Season Preview: Can Jürgen Klopp's Reds cement a serious title challenge?

After an excellent summer period - on and off the pitch - Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool are looking to surpass the achievements of last season where they secured a second successive top-four finish as well as reach their first Champions League final in 11 years.

Joshua Kerr

For the first time in years, Liverpool may feel themselves in a position to really challenge for the Premier League title as they round off a truly wonderful summer period on all aspects for the club.

Jürgen Klopp's side finished in the top-four for a second successive season last campaign, and their pulsating European form took the Reds all the way to the final where individual errors cost them the Champions League trophy as they were defeated by 13-time-champions Real Madrid back in May.

However, after a magnificent summer window that has seen a host of new stars arrive on Merseyside, can Liverpool challenge runaway champions and 100 club Manchester City for England's biggest prize this time around?

Last season suggested the Reds have what it takes to blow teams apart on their route to Kiev last season as Klopp's side took apart Porto, Roma and of course Manchester City in the two-legged knockout fixtures.

It's debatable that if the misfortunes of injury to the PFA and FWA's Footballer of the Year Mohamed Salah combined by crucial mistakes from goalkeeper Loris Karius then the outcome of the 2018 Champions League Final may have gone a little differently.

Despite finishing fourth in the table last campaign, the Reds sit as the second favourites from the bookies to take their first domestic title since 1990 as Klopp's team look to improve from another remarkable season under the German manager.

Reds round off magnificent summer window 

The summer of 2018 has seen the much-needed arrivals of four players in key positions for the Reds as Naby Keïta, Fabihno, Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Alisson Becker all joined Klopp's side to form arguably Liverpool's strongest squad in over a decade.

The Reds midfield is certainly the most improved area of the Liverpool side and the additions of Keïta and Fabinho will certainly bolster a central line that was picked apart in the final by the magnificent three midfielders in the Galactico's European winning side.

Liverpool fans have had to wait over a year for the arrival of Keita when the Reds activated the Guinean's RB Leipzig release clause that saw him move from the Bundesliga for £48 million last summer. 

The versatile midfielder was so highly rated that he was even awarded the no.8 shirt that hasn't been worn since arguably Liverpool's greatest ever player Steven Gerrard left the club three years ago.

The arrival of Fabinho also embedded a fine piece of business from Klopp as the Brazilian signed from Monaco for a £39 million fee filling in the central-defensive midfield void that was left after the inevitable departure of Emre Can to Serie A's Juventus.

Fabinho's arrival was also a rare example of Liverpool getting business done quickly - as well as under the radar - as the 24-year-old signed his official Reds contract just two days after Liverpool's Champions League final defeat.

Another impressive summer addition saw the arguably the bargain of the summer as the addition of Shaqiri from the relegated Stoke City allowed the Reds to activate the Swiss internationals £13 million release clause which provided a much-needed strengthening in depth to Klopp's squad with the former Bayern Munich star representing an adequate back-up to Salah and Sadio Mané - in any case of injury - as well as offering another option in an attacking system against the lower-ranked domestic sides.

The former Potter has quickly adapted to life on Merseyside as well as scoring the Reds standout goal in pre-season with the 26-year-olds magnificent over-head kick rounding off an impressive 4-1 victory against bitter rivals Manchester United.

However, the standout buy of the summer was undoubtedly the much-needed addition to football's most heavily scrutinised position. Liverpool's then world-record fee for a goalkeeper saw Brazil international Alisson join the Reds from Roma for a fee of £66.8 million.

After Karius' calamity in Kiev, it was undeniable that the Reds needed a fresh face between the sticks at Anfield, and the addition of an already European proven shot-stopper finally gives supporters the confidence that they have the assured figure needed in goal to have any real chance of domestic glory this season. 

Further confidence can also be gained from the full debut season of the worlds most expensive defender Virgil van Dijk who was a colossus at the back following his £75 million move from Southampton back in the January window.

Can Liverpool really challenge at the top?

Based on the squad that Liverpool start the season with, some may say they are the best equipped to really challenge the Citizens for the domestic crown this season when faced against what other rivals have done in the market.

Despite champions City only adding Riyad Mahrez to their title-winning side, achieving 100 points and striding to the top by a 19 point margin last season seems it would be fair to say that their squad is already strong enough to justify them being runaway favourites to defend their prize.

Manchester United as well already have a bulk of world-class talent in their armoury and despite the perhaps outdated methods of tactician José Mourinho, anyone would be foolish to completely write the Red Devils off for league this season. 

The business of Tottenham Hotspur's and Chelsea has come under severe scrutiny this summer window with Spurs still yet to sign a player despite the north-London club recording their third successive top-four finish last campaign under manager Mauricio Pochettino

The Blues despite making a bold changing at the guard with Maurizio Sarri replacing his Italian compatriot Antonio Conte, the 2017 champions have endured a mixed window with some impressive additions being overshadowed by the controversial imminent departures of some of their biggest stars.

The addition of Sarri's former Napoli midfielder Jorginho represents the only arrival alongside free agent Rob Green, and this doesn't cement over the cracks following the inevitable departure of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid.

However, the club are likely to confirm the arrival of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for a world-record fee of £72 million while a loan move for Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovačić also looks set in place for the Blues. The club's best efforts to fight off bids for the irreplaceable Eden Hazard could also argue Sarri's new side have still endured an impressive window.

Arsenal also have a change in manager for the first time in 22 years as former PSG boss Unai Emery replaces Arsene Wenger which could breath some much-needed fresh air into the Emirates, and could see them potentially ready to once again fight it up with some of England's fellow Juggernauts. 

Despite no silverware in six-years, Liverpool fans still, have a right to dream big this time around

The additions of fresh faces combined by no substantial departures should see the Reds in an unusual position of strength heading into the new season and supporters have a deserved right to feel positive.

First and foremost, Liverpool possesses the league's standout player of last season as Salah swooped up the domestic individual awards as well as taking home the Premier League Golden Boot - with 32 league goals last time out.

Also, Klopp has already pinned down the other two key members to the Reds irreplaceable 'fab-three' with contract negotiations completed for both Mane and Roberto Firmino.

The magnificent trio fired 91 goals in all competitions last campaign and they are already one of Europe's most feared front-three and they will all undoubtedly have a huge say in the Reds potential title credentials this season.

Klopp certainly has excellent foundations in place from which to build upon. Last season saw another top-four finish as well as a first Champions League final in over a decade. The Reds tragic fall at the last hurdle was undermined by injuries as well as individual mistakes - all of which have been addressed this summer window.

Liverpool have a tantalising trio that will surely spearhead the Reds to further greatness this season which is boosted by Klopp finally addressing the key issues at hand surrounding Liverpool's back line.

The summer signing of Andrew Robertson from Hull City in 2017 proved to be one of the great bargains of the season as the Scotsman made the left-back position his own as well as bossing an area that the Reds have struggled to fulfil for many long years.

Last season also saw the rise of one of England's true young talents as 2018 was - and can continue - to be the making of Trent Alexander Arnold.

The young scouser quickly became a fan favourite after stellar European performances against Manchester City as well as Real Madrid in the final, all in which earnt him a deserved call-up to 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The arrival of Van Dijk also saw a rejuvenated Dejan Lovren remind the doubters of his quality as the Croatian went on to star in both the Champions League and the World Cup to see himself a worthy defensive partner to his fellow former Southampton star.

Klopp's first full debut season under the Reds was one of headway, and that momentum went leaps and bound in his second. It's difficult to believe the tears shed in Kiev were only a few months ago compared to the optimism of taking the title to the wire this season around.

Club captain Jordan Henderson has returned to Liverpool off the back of a stellar World Cup, whilst James Milner is still highlighting his importance to the Reds that saw him as Europe's top assister in the Champions League, and despite the devastating injury to the impressive Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain everything looks set in place for Liverpool to have another magnificent season.

Their season hinges on their ability to cope with the pressure of matching the fans lucrative ambitions this campaign. If the Reds can find their European form of last season, as well as summer signings, reaching their undeniable potentials then there is no doubt the credentials of the fans can be matched and Liverpool can once again improve on what could be another truly unforgettable season.










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