Henderson returns & Salah starts for depleted Reds – Predicting Liverpool’s XI vs. Watford

Jurgen Klopp will, frustratingly, be forced to go without four key players as Liverpool kick off the Premier League campaign against Watford.

The Premier League is finally back.

With a summer of development done and a productive pre-season complete, the real stuff starts as the Reds begin the season against Marco Silva’s Hornets.

Klopp’s men—who have a busy opening with five games in 15 days—will want to make a flying start, and will be confident of doing so after some dazzling football over the summer.

Preparations have been difficult with four key players picking up early injuries—which will prevent Klopp naming his strongest XI at Vicarage Road.

But new arrivals Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Dominic Solanke will all be hoping to make competitive bows in Hertfordshire.


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Liverpool’s XI vs. The Hornets

MUNICH, GERMANY - Tuesday, August 1, 2017: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the Audi Cup 2017 match between FC Bayern Munich and Liverpool FC at the Allianz Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A number of injuries to vital personnel hands Klopp a frustratingly under-strength side as Liverpool look to hit the ground running.

This means the German’s selection in midfield and attack practically picks itself with the remaining options left.

Indeed, available senior options Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum and fit-again Jordan Henderson are certain to form an industrious centre, but one short of creativity without Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.

In attack, Salah is poised to start alongside new No. 9 Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in a potentially electric front line—where the wide pair could switch flanks to allow them to cut in on their stronger side.

However, Klopp still has some big decisions to make in both of his defensive departments—most crucially with his goalkeeper and full-backs.

The boss is sure to stick with Simon Mignolet as his first-choice stopper though, while Trent Alexander-Arnold should get the nod over Joe Gomez at right-back.

With new arrival Robertson and a revitalised Alberto Moreno available, one of the duo arguably should start at Vicarage Road—with an injection of pace and natural left-sided balance required.

But James Milner looks primed to continue—which would be disappointing given Moreno’s form and Robertson’s availability—with Klopp retaining full trust in his vice-captain.

Klopp has frustratingly little flexibility with his selection, and that could worsen further if Henderson isn’t quite back to full health to play from the start.

The captain missed the final friendly against Athletic Bilbao last week, and Klopp could therefore overlook the captain to deploy a fully fit and fresh midfield as he seeks a full-throttle performance.

A similar lineup to that which started against Bilbao could therefore suffice, which would see Milner move into midfield, surely joining the deep-lying Can and Wijnaldum.

Moreno and Robertson will both hope to be the chosen man to enter at left-back, but Klopp could go with the rejuvenated Spaniard following his surprising but pleasing pre-season resurgence.

Keeping the front three the same, a reshuffled Reds could start the opening game like this:

Opening the season at Watford presents the Reds with an ideal chance to get off to a winning start, and Klopp’s men must hit the ground running to make a perfect beginning to a hopefully successful campaign.

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