Adam Lallana to miss out on Liverpool's squad for West Ham but Daniel Sturridge makes the starting XI

Alex Broun 8/08/2018
Daniel Sturridge is set to be a shock starter against West Ham

After a superb pre-season including a 4-1 hammering of Manchester United, a 5-0 thrashing of Napoli and a 2-1 come-back win over Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool go into there opening Premier League match of the season against new-look West Ham on Wednesday.

And with so many players in top form – plus four new arrivals – the Reds boss has an embarrassment of riches when trying to select his match-day 18.

The toughest job is trying to work out who to pick and who to leave out.

With Liverpool’s superb squad Klopp will have a real challenge managing some bruised egos this season.

Here’s how we think the Reds 18 will line-up for the opening weekend – and there are quite a few surprises.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp dismisses defensive worries ahead of new season

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not concerned by his defensive options heading into the opening weekend of the season, despite being able to field only one senior centre-back in the 3-1 friendly win over Torino.

With Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan all carrying injuries Virgil van Dijk cruised through the first half alongside under-23 defender Nathaniel Philips.

In the second half at Anfield midfielders Fabinho – who missed an early penalty – and Marko Grujic both filled in as Van Dijk only played 45 minutes but Klopp is not worried ahead of Sunday’s visit of West Ham.

“I think (Joe Gomez) is OK. It is nothing serious but it was not possible tonight as he played on Saturday,” said Klopp.

“Dejan (Lovren) is in but he’s not had a long holiday (after the World Cup final).

“For Raggy (Klavan) and Joel it is probably not good enough as they are not fit for the weekend but we don’t need 12 centre-halves.”

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri all made their Anfield debuts for Liverpool with the latter impressing with an assist for Daniel Sturridge to score the third goal after Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum had given the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Alisson was not able to keep a clean sheet after being beaten by Andrea Belotti’s close-range header but his departure late on saw Loris Karius warmly welcomed back to Anfield by fans after his two costly errors in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.

It was a moment which pleased Klopp as much as the performance.

“I was not surprised to be honest but as a human being I was hoping for it and I loved it,” he added.

“We showed tonight a really nice face and that helps, not only Loris but the others as well that they see this is a very special place. It was a really big gesture.”

Klopp has not ruled out captain Jordan Henderson featuring on Sunday despite only returning to training at the weekend.

“I am not sure but it is Hendo. In his first session he looked like he trained the whole three weeks completely,” said the Reds boss.

“He was in a really good shape so we thought a few minutes tonight would be possible.

“He is a very important option but I have no clue what we will do at the weekend.

“Hendo needs a pre-season but not as much as the others as he has not had long off.”

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Daniel Sturridge is a winner but Adam Lallana is a loser on Liverpool pre-season score-card

Alex Broun 7/08/2018
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Michael Edwards, Liverpool's Sporting Director.

It’s been a busy pre-season off and on the field for Liverpool.

We take a look at the winners and losers.

WINNERS

Michael Edwards

More often than not Liverpool’s Sporting Director Michael Edwards is working behind the scenes, but so successful has been the Red’s transfer business this pre-season that the 39-year-old has been thrust into the lime-light.

Edwards was appointed to this newly-created role back in November 2016.

Owners Fenway Sports Group had wanted a sporting director in place as early as 2012 but Brendan Rodgers’ arrival as manager saw the plans scrapped until Jurgen Klopp took over in 2015.

The German worked with a similar structure successfully while at Borussia Dortmund.

Edwards is believed to have played a big role in bringing Fabinho, Naby Keita, Alisson and Xherdan Shaqiri to the club with the only black mark the non-arrival of Nabil Fekir.

But all in a fantastic summer for the former Peterborough video analyst.

daniel-sturridge

Daniel Sturridge

Just when everyone was getting ready to put a line through the striker, the 28-year-old has been re-born with some outstanding performances in pre-season and a re-discovered positive attitude.

He has immediately struck up an excellent understanding with new arrivals Shaqiri and Keita both playing the role of scorer and provider.

Liverpool fans were disappointed when Nabil Fekir did not arrive over the summer but Sturridge in current form could well slot into that No10 role as well as provide excellent back up for the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

The only question mark is can the injury prone front man stay fit – if he can the Sturridge 2.0 could be a huge boost in 2018/19.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Curtis Jones

Curtis Jones

Little was known about the 17-year-old Scouser prior to the summer but along with Sturridge he has been a clear pre-season winner.

The tall, elegant mid-fielder has impressed all with his performances in Liverpool’s pre-season campaign, whether it was against Chester at the humble Deva Stadium or Manchester United in front over 100,000 in Detroit.

His calm and composed performance in the 5-0 hammering of Napoli was the icing on the cake.

A talented midfield player with an eye for a pass and a keen eye for goal, versatility is one of of his many attributes as he can play anywhere across middle.

So good has Jones been that he will be fighting for a spot on the bench for the first team right from the start of the season.

LOSERS

Adam Lallana is tackled by Nuri Sahin

Adam Lallana

The England-man is a popular figure at Liverpool, known for his tireless work-rate and his touches in front of goal.

But with the arrival of so much talent over the summer it’s hard seeing the 30-year-old play much part this season.

Lallana was already stretched to be pushing for a starting spot but now with the arrival of Keita and Shaqiri and the re-birth of Sturridge and emergence of Jones, Lallana could easily be squeezed out of the match day squad entirely.

Looking at the Liverpool midfield options, they are probably headlined by Keita, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum at season start with the returning Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Shaqiri and Jones as ready back up.

This leaves Lallana on the outer and possibly looking for a new club come January.

karius

Loris Karius

The young German (non-)stopper is much discussed by Reds fans – with equal measures of derision and support.

He surprisingly found himself elevated ahead of the more experienced Simon Mignolet last season and a few good performances were then un-done by his horror evening in the Champions League final, where his two glaring errors were the difference between the teams.

Since then he has issued a teary apology to fans, recorded an odd promotional video while on holiday in LA and shown he is still well and truly afflicted by the goal-keeping yips after gifting a goal to lowly Tranmere.

Whether it was that moment that forced Liverpool’s hand to finally bring in another keeper or the arrival of Alisson was due to a confluence of other factors is yet to be revealed.

But either way the Brazilian’s arrival – and impressive debut against Napoli – show that the 25-year-old has already settled in well on Merseyside.

Karius is now well and truly consigned to a bench role with only the League Cup to look forward to or perhaps he may even be on the move sooner rather than later.

Klopp gave him every chance but enough is enough.

0723 Jose Mourinho

Liverpool’s opponents

It has been 28 long years since the Reds won the top division in English football – back then the Premier League didn’t even exist.

But with Liverpool’s impressive run last year and the strengthening exactly where it needed to happen – in goal, defence and midfield – you would have to say Liverpool are ready for a title challenge.

They beat Manchester City (2-1), Manchester United (4-1) and absolutely destroyed Napoli (5-0) in pre-season and played some fast paced, highly skilled football.

Apart from Henderson and Dejan Lovren the whole squad will be ready to go from day one of the opening season and new arrivals Keita, Fabinho, Shaqiri and Alisson are desperate to make their mark.

However, this is Liverpool and something could still go spectacularly wrong but at this point in time they look best placed to threaten Manchester City for the title.

Spurs have done nothing in the transfer market and have been hit hardest by the World Cup, United are in a Jose Mourinho inflicted doldrums and Chelsea and Arsenal are re-building with new coaches.

This leaves Klopp’s Reds the strongest challenger to Pep’s sky blues.

No more excuses – this year Liverpool must give it a real go.

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