Finally, our season begins proper.
The Reds kick-off their competitive season at Anfield. Their opponents are West Ham, led by the newly appointed Manuel Pelligrini. With a strong start necessary to mount any sort of title challenge, let us preview our very first game.
A Competitive Debut For Alisson
Brought in for a cool £65 million, the one time world-record goalkeeper is in line for his 1st competitive start for the Reds. He is set to replace Karius as Klopp’s first choice in goal.
Klopp has all but confirmed it in his interview with the press. Quizzed on how Alisson can make an impact in the Premier League, he replied: “He has settled really quickly. He has been in for 2 weeks but it looks like he has been in for much longer.”
Fans can see that for themselves in the Brazilians 2 friendly appearances, with his distribution particularly eye-catching. Hopefully, Alisson can mark his competitive debut with a clean sheet.
Any optimism heading into the new season is marred by Klopp’s latest fitness update. In his press conference, he has confirmed that both Klavan and Lovren are out of the West Ham game. Klavan has a muscle issue, while the Croatian only just returned to Melwood on Monday after helping Croatia reach the World Cup finals.
Things doesn’t get any better from there. Klopp’s other centre back options, Gomez and Matip, face a race against time to be fit. Matip was injured since the preseason friendly against Borussia Dortmund while Gomez missed the Torino game.
As a result, it leaves Klopp short of options at the back. In the worse case scenario, Klopp could hand Nathaniel Philips a first Premier League start. The youngster, who featured prominently in the Reds preseason games, would therefore slot right next to van Djik. The other choice could be fielding a back 3 with midfielders flanking either side of van Djik. Klopp has used that tactic last season, with Wijnaldum and Can being the personnel tasked to carry out that game plan then.
In other injury news, Fabinho is doubtful for Sunday’s game due to an illness. English duo Alexander-Arnold and Henderson would also be further assessed before any decision is made due to their World Cup exertions.
Hammers No Pushovers
Though Liverpool beat their opponents 4-1 both at home and away, the Hammers will represent a different sort of test this time round. For one, they’ve a new face at the helm. Pelligrini’s game plan will be markedly differently from his predecessor David Moyes. No one will expect West Ham to just sit back and defend.
The manager confirmed it by saying: “We are not trying to change our style of play depending on who we play against, so I hope the fans enjoy a good display. My expectations for West Ham are just to win the first game.”
With smart signings and a strong preseason, (they lost just one of their friendlies, and that was the very first one against FC Winterthur) expect stiff opposition from the Chilean’s men. The Reds will have to be absolutely focused in order to start the season on a bright note.