EDITOR: Since this article was written it has been confirmed that new signing Alberto Moreno is ineligible to play against Southampton as his paperwork did not go through to the Premier League in time.
As Liverpool prepare to take on a much changed Southampton side at Anfield in their season opener, Ben Twelves discusses who should feature in starting line-up for the clash.
Liverpool host Southampton on Sunday afternoon in their first game of the new season and the Reds will be looking to start their title challenge off with a positive start and three points.
The match against the Saints carries and extra significance, with Brendan Rodgers choosing to raid former manager Mauricio Pochettino’s team that won so many admirers with their stylish and productive performances in the Premier League.
The Liverpool manager has boosted his squad with a number of quality options ahead of the season’s kick off, something that was an absolute must if the club wanted to compete strongly in the busiest campaign they have faced for seasons.
While some of Rodgers’ new recruits will miss and are doubtful for the visit of Southampton on Sunday, such as Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, the rest of the fit and firing new boys will all be in contention to take part.
There’s a number of question marks over a few areas in the Liverpool team, with shirts definitely up for grabs throughout the defensive positions, and Glen Johnson and Manquillo will both be hoping that they’re the one selected to occupy the right full-back shirt for the match.
Meanwhile, Jose Enrique, Alberto Moreno or even possibly Johnson– who performed very well at left back against Borussia Dortmund – will be hoping that they prove to be Rodgers’ chosen man for the left back slot.
The biggest talking point comes at centre back, and who will seemingly partner our £20million man, Lovren, in the heart of defence.
Martin Skrtel was the man trusted in last weekend’s final friendly and a solid display will have done his chances no harm, but Mamadou Sakho will be hoping he can begin to form what looks to be the long term partnership between the Frenchman and the Croatian at the earliest opportunity.
In midfield, Joe Allen, Emre Can, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson are all available to fill the midfield spaces, although after opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation last time out, Henderson could continue on the right side of the ‘3’ behind Daniel Sturridge with the deadly duo Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling filling the other two spaces.
The return to the 4-2-3-1 formation against Dortmund proved to work so well with plenty of fluid movement and interchanging between the front four players.
The dominant powerhouse Emre Can marshalled the midfield with Gerrard, who continued to dictate play from his midfield controller position with his passing from deep.
After producing such an exciting performance, Rodgers may see no reason to change the starting team for Sunday.
The personnel involved in the starting XI chosen give Liverpool such flexibility with shape and formation and what could start out as a 4-2-3-1 could easily transform to a 4-3-3 with Henderson, Can and Gerrard in midfield with Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge making the forward three, or even a 4-4-2 with the Brazilian magician at the top of a diamond midfield and Sterling up front with Sturridge.
The Liverpool squad has a number of exciting options available – something that was unfortunately lacking last season – and as a result there are a number of formations and selections for Rodgers to choose from. However, this is how Liverpool should line up:
An alternative formation for Rodgers to pick could be a 4-1-2-1-2:
With those players making up the starting XI, Rodgers’ substitutes will look reasonably strong for the first time in his career at the club, despite missing Lallana and potentially Markovic and of course being a striker light.
The bench could include: Jones, Sakho, Johnson, Allen, Suso, Ibe, Lambert.
Getting off to a quick start last season in the dramatic fashion that we did undoubtedly built confidence within the team, allowing us to launch a genuine title challenge and it’s therefore essential that Liverpool repeat that feat on Sunday against Ronald Koeman’s side.
Having said that – a slightly less theatrical and more comfortable victory would be just fine too, lads.
Come on Red men!