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[color=#000000]sbo333 Back from Hong Kong, Liverpool will step up their pre-season preparations this week as the new Premier League campaign hurtles into vision.
It’s less than three weeks now until Jurgen Klopp takes his side to Watford for their opening league fixture. After that comes the first leg of that crucial Champions League play-off – August, you may have noticed, is huge.
Klopp was able to welcome four first-teamers to full training at Melwood on Tuesday. Emre Can is back after his Confederations Cup exploits, while Sadio Mane and Danny Ings are ready to join in with the group after injury. Andy Robertson , meanwhile, will train with his new teammates for the first time this week.
It means, for now at least, Klopp has pretty much a full squad to choose from. Only James Milner of the senior players is carrying an issue, his thigh injury to be closely managed this week.
Liverpool head to Germany on Wednesday ahead of a three-game trip. The Reds face Hertha Berlin on Saturday before taking on Bayern Munich the following Tuesday.
Twenty-four hours later, they will be up against either Atletico Madrid or Napoli, before concluding their pre-season schedule in Dublin against Athletic Bilbao.
Plenty of time, then, for the pecking order to emerge. And, of course, for new faces to arrive – and hopefully none, or one in particular, to depart!
What will be Klopp’s XI at Watford? Here’s a look at the big dilemmas...
The likelihood is that Simon Mignolet will start the season as he finished it, as Liverpool’s No.1 between the sticks.
Loris Karius has featured alongside the Belgian in pre-season, but Mignolet’s form after returning to the side last winter means he deserves the chance to continue. Karius will hope for chances in cup competitions, and to continue keeping the pressure on after his difficult debut campaign on Merseyside.
Danny Ward , meanwhile, is yet to feature in pre-season despite Klopp suggesting that he would. Whether a season of being third choice appeals to the Wales international remains to be seen.
Verdict: Mignolet gets the nod, but will it be Ward or Karius breathing down his neck – or both?
Much will depend on a certain Dutchman, of course, but otherwise we are in a situation where Liverpool start the season with the same back four that finished it. Not ideal, in the eyes of many supporters. sbo333
Centre backs will, barring injury or £60m signings, be Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren . Nathaniel Clyne will likely begin the campaign at right back though Trent Alexander-Arnold looks set to offer serious competition there.
Can Andy Robertson take his chance at dislodging James Milner in the coming fortnight. Milner’s thigh problem may help, though the vice-captain remains a firm favourite of the manager – unlike Mamadou Sakho, who will surely be sold before August is out?
Verdict: Clyne, Matip, Lovren and Milner to start – but it’s clear where the Reds need to strengthen most.
Naby Keita notwithstanding, it will be intriguing to see how Klopp juggles his options here.
Captain Jordan Henderson , fit and sharp in pre-season, will start as the No.6, but who will fill the advanced roles.
Emre Can’s late return (and contract situation) may count against him, while it is difficult to imagine Adam Lallana AND Philippe Coutinho starting together in midfield too often, especially away from home. Lallana is a huge Klopp favourite, of course, but then so is Gini Wijnaldum.
Verdict: Lallana the one to miss out as Coutinho joins Henderson and Wijnaldum to begin with. Liverpool still a midfielder light going into the season, though – whether it’s Keita or A.N. Other.
At the top end of the field, Klopp has reason to be excited about his potential options.
Mane may be nursed back into action having missed so much football, but he and Mohamed Salah look a tantalising prospect on the wings. Coutinho, of course, offers a different kind of threat in the front three, while Lallana can slot in there on occasion.
Roberto Firmino has not been outstanding in pre-season, but is very much THE No.9 at Anfield – literally and figuratively speaking. Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Dom Solanke will wait in the wings, as will the prodigious Ben Woodburn and the returning Danny Ings.
Verdict: Pace on both flanks with Mane and Salah, while Firmino continues his role as the real false nine.
There is understandable concern over Liverpool’s summer so far, with the lack of progress over a new centre half worrying, and no sign of a top-class midfield arrival either.
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