With the possibility of Champions League football on the cards, how will Liverpool cope with the demands of multiple competitions?
This season sees Liverpool attempt to win their first Premier League title for the 26th time of asking. With their last title coming some 27 years ago could this finally be the season their long title drought ends? It’s something that Liverpool fans have been dreaming of for a long time however the Premier League may take a back seat once again.
The Champions League presents the Reds with a chance to re-establish themselves amongst Europe’s elite. First they must negotiate the tricky task of overcoming German side Hoffenheim though.
Meanwhile domestically Liverpool will be hoping for better in the cups. Last season saw Liverpool knocked out disappointingly early in the fourth round and they’ll be hoping for much better this time around.
The League Cup has been much more fruitful for Liverpool on the other hand. Having reached the semi-final and final multiple times in recent years they’ll be hoping to add to their record eight League Cup triumphs.
Liverpool finally returned to the top four for the first time since their 2013/14 title challenge last season. This season should follow in the same suit for the Reds. A title challenge is probably still out of reach with their current squad and taking in to account the poor injury record. However much of their campaign could depend on their fortunes in other competitions.
Scenario one: Liverpool finish 2nd/3rd after being knocked out of Europe early and have a poor run in at least one of the domestic cups.
Scenario two: Liverpool finish 3rd/4th after being knocked out of Europe early but have good runs in both domestic cups.
Scenario three: Liverpool finish 5th/6th after reaching the latter rounds of the Champions League knockout stages and use fringe/youth players in domestic cups.
Prediction: 5th/6th place finish due to focus on European competition and lack of squad depth.
The 2014/15 season was the last time Liverpool were in the Champions League and it was quickly forgotten about by the Liverpool fans. The Reds’ only win in the group stage came at home to Ludogorets and then they crashed out the Europa League after just one fixture against Besiktas.
This time they’ll be hoping for a much better showing. With Jürgen Klopp at the helm it’s expected they’ll be impressive against the bigger teams that the Champions League presents. That’s especially important as they’re likely to be third seeds for the group stage and will come up against bigger teams.
However, first Liverpool will need to overcome a difficult qualifier against Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim were probably the most difficult team Liverpool could have faced but Klopp knows German opposition well. It should also be remembered that an English team has never lost a Champions League qualifier.
Prediction: Liverpool can get to the quarter finals as long as they avoid defensive teams like Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool’s fourth round exit to Wolves last season was frankly abysmal especially after it took a replay to beat League Two Plymouth. Unless they’re unlucky enough to play a top seven side it’s almost impossible they can do any worse this season.
If Liverpool are still in Europe by January expect a heavily rotated team for the FA Cup. However even with fringe & young players starting they should still get to at least the fifth round. On the other hand, if they somehow end up out of European competition by January expect Liverpool to play their strongest side.
Prediction: A 6th round exit seems most likely as Liverpool’s lack of squad depth comes unstuck against what would be a strong opposition at this point.
Liverpool have a strong record in the League Cup but it’s likely to be a very low priority this season. With the League Cup being played around Premier League and Champions League fixtures expect to see a very young line-up from them.
However Liverpool do have some of the best young players in the country and those players could use it as their opportunity to impress. Despite that it’s still unlikely they’d beat many Premier League opponents.
Prediction: A fourth round exit could be on the cards after beating most likely a lower league opposition first before succumbing to the first Premier League or top Championship team they face.
Liverpool’s squad depth cost them dearly last season. The first half of the season the Reds were in a title challenge but after injuries and AFCON they had to hang on to fourth. Despite those concerns summer acquisitions have been limited.
In: Mohamed Salah (£35m), Andrew Robertson (£8m) and Dominic Solanke (Tribunal)
Salah appears to be the only starting XI player signed but he has hit the ground running in pre-season and looks to be a quality addition. However Robertson could also go straight in to the starting line-up and could be a bargain at £8m. Meanwhile Solanke looks like he has a bright future ahead of him although he’ll struggle for Premier League game time this season with Firmino, Sturridge and Origi ahead of him in the pecking order.
Out: Lucas Leiva (£5m), Kevin Stewart (£7.5m) and Andre Wisdom (Undisclosed).
Lucas is sure to be a big miss in the dressing room for Liverpool. However, they’re unlikely to miss Stewart and Wisdom too much after both failed to make an impact at Liverpool.
The transfer activity done so far has been good with Salah adding much needed width up front and Robertson adding depth at left back. However there are still some glaring holes that need filling. A new centre back looks a necessity whilst the fans will not be happy if there is no alternative to Naby Keita lined up. There are also still some doubts about the proficiency of Firmino and the fitness of Sturridge so a striker wouldn’t be out of the question.
With the arrival of Salah expect Mané to be moved to the left wing and Coutinho to drop in to midfield. The inclusion of Moreno at left back may be more surprising though after he barely started a game last season. However he has had a lot of minutes in pre-season and Klopp seems to have more faith in him. That may be because Mané is more likely to track back and help the full back than Coutinho was.
It may be slightly premature but Virgil van Dijk has been included alongside Matip. After handing in a transfer request he looks unlikely to play for Southampton again. Liverpool are big favourites to sign the Dutchman although Chelsea are interested as well. If van Dijk doesn’t join the Reds expect Lovren to line-up alongside Matip.
Ones to Watch
Due to the number of competitions Liverpool will be fighting for and the amount of injuries they pick up expect some fringe players to get the chance to impress.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Injury to Nathaniel Clyne in pre-season means that Alexander-Arnold has been given a big opportunity at right back. He has definitely taken those chances as well. At just 18-years-old he has defied his years and looks a competent player. Don’t be surprised if his attacking qualities give him the edge over Clyne this season.
Dominic Solanke: The former Chelsea youngster has been one of Liverpool’s most impressive players over pre-season. He will definitely be given game time in the cups and could work his way closer to the first team.
Ryan Kent: Liverpool were expected to give a chance to either Sheyi Ojo or Ryan Kent over pre-season. After Ojo wasn’t taken on tour with the Reds, Kent was given a chance to impress. Some quality performances could give him a chance to deputise for Mané and Salah as a backup winger.
Marko Grujic: The Serbian could be given a chance this season after persistent injury prevented him from playing much last season. The young midfielder is imposing and has an eye for goal.
Ben Woodburn: Just 17, he has already played a few games for the Reds. After becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever scorer he looks set for great things and his impressive versatility could give him some decent game time this season.
Joe Gomez: As fourth choice centre back for Liverpool, Gomez is expected to get some minutes due to the injury prone Matip and Lovren. However if van Dijk joins the Reds the 20-year-old may struggle for minutes.