Liverpool Season Preview: Klopp's European Champions to overthrow City from their perch?
(Getty Images - Andrew Powell)

It almost seems impossible that anything Liverpool could possibly do this season could emulate or surpass the achievements of a 97 point Premier League campaign as well as a sixth European Cup-winning record-breaking season.

And yet, this is the standard Jürgen Klopp's winning-machine of a team has set. The time has come for Liverpool to look forward rather than backwards.

The memories and sheer elation of that memorable night in Madrid will always live long in the memory, perhaps a lifetime, but Klopp hasn't oiled together this juggernaut of a squad for their first triumph to be the pinnacle of his Anfield reign.

Liverpool now have a status that has the potential to hinder a team rather than harness it. The Reds must now juggle with the added pressure of competing on six different fronts this season following their Community Shield defeat on penalties to Manchester City on Sunday.

There is the Super Cup showdown against Frank Lampard's Chelsea in Istanbul to come in just nine days time as well as a Fifa Club World Cup campaign in Qatar. Liverpool will certainly not be expected to deliver the Holy Grail of six trophies but emulating the success of last season will need something not far from those lines.

No pressure right. The bar is set unquantifiably high and their 97 points tally last season was the highest tally in Liverpool's illustrious 127-year history. The Reds missed out on their most craved possession by a single point and only lost one match throughout the entirety of the campaign to back-to-back Premier League champions Manchester City.

It's hard not to feel sorry for yourself being a Kopite and having to deal with the physical and mental demands of competing with perhaps the most formidable footballing side English football has ever seen as well as perhaps one of the games finest ever managers. City have collected 198 points over their two title-winning seasons and that's sadly what Liverpool are up against.

Never before has an opponent been so daunting, yet so fierce. But, just remember, Rocky, lost his first battle to Apollo Creed and well you know the rest. Liverpool may be underdogs but the title is certainly not beneath their reach.

It's likely that supporters should expect another two-horse race between the continent's current leading heavyweights as this simmering and evolving rivalry looks to intensify for another season but the big question is: Have Liverpool got enough in the armory to finally knock Pep Guardiola and City off their perch?

Transfer Business

The lucrative tag of European champions has not forced Klopp into spending with a booming statement of intent in the transfer market this summer. That is not the German manager's philosophy and it's not going to change because the 52-year-old finally got his hand on Ole Big Ears now is it.

In fact, there have only been three signings this summer and none to get the heart racing either. Instead of flaunting the chequebook this summer window Klopp has decided to only bring in additions he thinks are necessary for the development of the squad.

Firstly, young Dutch defender Sepp van de Berg was the Reds maiden signing of the transfer window with the 17-year-old prospect joining from PEC Zwolle for an initial fee of £1.3 million.

The second addition was an even younger talent with 16-year-old Fulham winger and the Premier League's youngest-ever appearance maker Harvey Elliott joining the Reds, whose transfer fee will be determined by a tribunal.

The most recent summer signing emerged on Monday, August 5, when former West Ham goalkeeper Adrian was brought in as a swift replacement for Simon Mignolet who ended his six-year-stay at Anfield after joining Belgium outfit Club Brugge.

Klopp's lack of transfer activity has raised some eyebrows and caused divided opinions. Many feel it as a failure to capitalise at a time where Liverpool's pulling power has never been so strong after being crowned kings of Europe for a sixth time. Others feel Klopp has already displayed enough trust in his system to encourage supporters that the boss knows what he is doing when assembling and maintaining a winning squad following his immense progress since the appointment in October 2015.

Where the season can be won and lost

In terms of where the season can be lost, it ultimately comes down to whether Liverpool can cope with such a busy schedule on top of competing at the same gargantuan level as champions City.

It could also hinder on whether the Red's dazzling front trident of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino can all torment defenders at the same devastating rate of last season.

Arguably the finest front-three in world football, Klopp's most trusted trio scored 69 goals between them last season as both Mane and Salah shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Arsenal's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

Each player has been run virtually into physical exhaustion following such a gruelling domestic and European campaign. Salah played 52 matches for Liverpool last term with Mane (50) and Firmino (48) all pretty much operating at the same devastating rate. The 10-month club campaign started in August and didn't finish until June and on top of that, their international commitments ensured in wasn't until July that any of the three were finally granted a breather.

Mane only began his pre-season preparations on Monday morning after reaching the AFCON final with Senegal only two weeks ago and there is a fear of potential player burn-out.

Much will hinge on whether not only the front-three can find their usual form but whether Klopp's back-up options are up to the task of meeting the same standard. Divock Origi has already achieved legendary status at the club that culminated in the Belgian coming off the bench to slam home that Champions League winning strike. However, despite already being a Kop icon the striker certainly still has much to prove and it remains to be seen whether he has the consistency to ease the burden on Firmino following the exits of Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings who departed in the summer.

It also remains to be seen whether Harry Wilson and Ryan Kent will have a part to play in the 2019/20 tale following their successful loan periods at Derby County and Rangers respectively.

Another player who needs to prove his worth to Klopp is Xherdan Shaqiri who has had the majority of his pre-season plans hampered by injury following the Nations League finals with Switzerland. The former Stoke City man was emerging as an easy fix in the creative void left by Philippe Coutinho but quickly faded and his work rate is something that has been consistently questioned in Klopp's physically demanding team.

One to watch

Look no further than academy prodigy and golden boy Rhian Brewster. There hasn't been this genuine excitement surrounding a youth team player since Raheem Sterling and we all know how he has turned out.

2019/20 could seriously be Brewster's breakthrough year and the signs from pre-season suggest that this youngster was built highest level.

The 19-year-old teenager who helped fire England to Under-17 World Cup glory in 2017 has been a complete menace throughout pre-season. The composure and assurance to step up and convert the penalty against Borussia Dortmund displayed that he is already ahead of his years and could be the perfect replacement for Sturridge.

Following a 14 month period on the sidelines following ankle and knee surgery Brewster is ready to stake his claim. He is lightning quick, holds the ball well and is a workhorse similar to Firmino.

There is no wonder Klopp set a pathway for the youngster following his injury setback after immediately putting him with the senior squad forming an iconic bromance with fellow Red Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the process.

Too much responsibility should not be thrown on Brewster's shoulders and he will likely benefit from the number of competitions Liverpool have been forced into. Make no assumptions, but this kid is seriously the real deal and there is a foundation for Brewster to succeed at Anfield.

Potential wildcard

There is little to wonder why Klopp hasn't felt the need to improve his midfield as it is an area beaming with glistening strength. This is the area where Liverpool seriously need to match City if they are to potentially dethrone them and the man who could have a big say this season is Naby Keita.

Following a rollercoaster of a first season, there were certainly flashes of brilliance from the Guinean international following his move from RB Leipzig.

The biggest setback for Keita was that an injury arrived just when he was started to find some consistency in his form. Keita, alongside Oxlade-Chamberlain, could be the men to add that creative spark and throw an ace from their sleeve in times where the midfield was lacking last season.

Chamberlain was another who was reaching breathtaking levels before an injury utterly destroyed his momentum. The former Arsenal man perhaps deserves more good fortune than anyone else following a ruptured ACL that spanned all the way back to April 2018. Adam Lallana is another looking to put his injury woes to bed in what is potentially one final opportunity to find that level of consistency supporters know is there.

What to expect

Last season is practically impossible to emulate. Klopp has now transformed a team of nearly-men to genuine title contenders by tempering attacking instincts and opting for control and balance as opposed to intensity and flair. There is now a greater emphasis on defence which culminated in the Reds boasting the best defensive record in the top-flight in 2018/19 following an approach that focused on marginal gains rather than the 'heavy metal'/ 'all-guns-blazing approach that Klopp's style had addressed in recent years.

The truth is, signings like Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk will set Liverpool up in good stead for many years to come and it's payers like this why Klopp has kept an ice-cool head in the transfer market.

The Brazilian goalkeeper is perhaps Liverpool's finest goalkeeper since Bruce Grobbelaar and his 21 clean sheets last year earned him the Golden Glove in the Premier League. No wonder success follows wherever the 6ft 4 shot-stopper goes following a Copa America success to add to his first Champions League winner's medal.

As for Van Dijk, the Ballon d'Or contender has announced himself as the best defender in world football and with him in the team, there is no reason Liverpool can be virtually unbeatable in the league again next campaign. Not one player managed to dribble past the colossus/ man-mountain that is Van Dijk and alongside Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, Klopp is spoilt for choice with options to partner the big-man in defence.

The Reds also have Europe's finest delivery service in the form of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson who will both continue to delve into attacking options and provide attacking ammunition throughout the entirety of the next campaign.

The expectancy is to once again compete on both fronts in-terms of the Premier League and defending their European crown. With the City juggernaut so faultless and formidable, the margin for error is practically unmeasurable. Klopp has played his cards by maintaining his faith in his current group of players. Now can Liverpool do what they have failed to do in 30 years and finally claim that topflight crown?

When the club previously fell agonisingly short of England's greatest prize in 2002, 2009 and 2014, the club regressed at a seriously scary level. But, those days are long in the past and it's almost unimaginable to see history repeating itself again. Not with these players, no with this staff, not with this manager.

Predicted finish: 2nd

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