Predicting how Liverpool could line up for pre-season friendly against Napoli

3 August 2018

Liverpool travel to Dublin on Saturday to face Napoli in their penultimate pre-season fixture before the 2018/19 campaign kicks off next weekend.


Following wins against both Manchester clubs in the US, Jurgen Klopp’s squad have ramped up their preparations for the new season with an intense training camp in France over the past week.

The Reds will take on last season’s Serie A runners-up Napoli at the Aviva Stadium, now managed by Carlo Ancelotti following Maurizio Sarri’s move to Chelsea this summer.

They then return to Anfield to face Torino in the final pre-season fixture on Tuesday evening.

Klopp’s options have been bolstered by the return of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino following their extended breaks after the World Cup, while new signing Alisson has also linked up with the squad and has been confirmed to make his debut against the Italians on Saturday.

Here’s a look at how Liverpool could line up against Napoli.

 

Option A

Alisson; Clyne, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Mane, Sturridge


Alisson is guaranteed to start, and having made a good impression during his first week’s training with the squad in France, he will have the remaining two pre-season fixtures to bed-in before starting the new season as Klopp’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Clyne, meanwhile, has enjoyed a full pre-season after an injury-ravaged campagin last time out.

He will be hoping he has done enough to earn his place in the side for the opening game against West Ham.

CHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 7, 2018: Liverpool's Joe Gomez during a preseason friendly match between Chester FC and Liverpool FC at the Deva Stadium. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

There is an opportunity at centre back for Joe Gomez to start alongside Virgil van Dijk, given Joel Matip’s injury-hit pre-season and the fact that Dejan Lovren is still to return following the World Cup.

As a naturally right-sided defender, Gomez is a more natural fit than Ragnar Klavan, but will need to prove he has the concentration and physicality to make the transition into the centre of defence.

Fabinho looks nailed-on to start the season in the No.6 role, while Naby Keita has returned to full training following a minor neck injury and Klopp will be keen to ensure he is fit and raring to go for the opening game.

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Thursday, July 19, 2018: Liverpool's new signing Naby Keita during a preseason friendly match between Blackburn Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Ewood Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gini Wijnaldum, meanwhile, has endured a frustrating pre-season with niggling injuries causing him to miss several games and training sessions.

But the Dutchman has been training this past week and will need to clock up some minutes to make up for lost time.

Perhaps with one eye on giving them both a rest on Tuesday against Torino (at least from the start), Klopp could look to start both Mane and Mohamed Salah on this occasion, after they both returned in red-hot form during the US tour.

Both have featured in just two games this pre-season, and will benefit from further action before the new campaign kicks-off.

Daniel Sturridge, meanwhile, has reasserted his presence as a viable option for Klopp this summer.

With four goals to his name already, he will be looking to force his way into the starting line up against West Ham next weekend and take advantage of Firmino’s late return to the squad.

 

Option B

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Shaqiri; Salah, Mane, Firmino


While Gomez, Van Dijk and Robertson look set to start the season opener, Alexander-Arnold’s return to training this week means there is still a battle to be had for the right-back spot.

Once back to full match fitness, Alexander-Arnold will be expected to remain first-choice following his hugely impressive 2017-18 season, and Klopp has stated that he could even be ready for West Ham despite his late return to pre-season.

Should Klopp be planning to start with Alexander-Arnold in the opening game ahead of Clyne, he will need minutes on the pitch this weekend to regain sharpness after not being heavily involved for England over the summer.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 13, 2018: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At times last season—such as in the final league game against Brighton at Anfield—Klopp used the 4-2-3-1 system in order to be able to field four attackers, and that’s something he could try again on this occasion.

Here, we could see Fabinho and Keita providing a dynamic, balanced, midfield double-pivot.

Xherdan Shaqiri has made a hugely positive first impression in pre-season so far, and having hit the ground running in the No.10 role against Manchester United, Klopp could give him another outing in that position against Napoli.

Shaqiri is another player who will be hoping to force his way into the team for the opening game, and another bright performance here can further enhance his prospects.

ANN ARBOR, USA - Saturday, July 28, 2018: Liverpool's new signing Xherdan Shaqiri during the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As with Alexander-Arnold, Klopp has also revealed that Firmino could be ready for the opening game against West Ham having returned to pre-season in excellent condition.

The Brazilian will undoubtedly be Klopp’s main No.9 this season, but it’s a straight choice between him and Sturridge as to who starts the first game—and much of that will depend on how Firmino fares in these remaining two pre-season fixtures.


 

Substitutes

CHARLOTTE, USA - Sunday, July 22, 2018: Liverpool's James Milner during a preseason International Champions Cup match between Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool FC at the Bank of America Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Karius, Grabara, Kelleher, Klavan, Philipps, Moreno, Milner, Lallana, Jones, Camacho, Ojo, Grujic, Markovic, Origi, Solanke


Loris Karius has been linked with a move to Bayer Leverkusen in recent days, and despite having featured prominently throughout pre-season, Alisson’s arrival will relegate him to the bench.

Klavan should feature at some stage against Napoli even if he doesn’t start.

With Gomez taking part in a separate, specially-tailored training session on Thursday, Klavan also has an opportunity to earn a place alongside Van Dijk for the opening game.

One of James Milner or Adam Lallana looks likely to compete with Wijnaldum for the third midfield spot alongside Fabinho and Keita for the opening game—that is, if Klopp sticks with a 4-3-3 formation.

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Thursday, July 19, 2018: Liverpool's Adam Lallana during a preseason friendly match between Blackburn Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Ewood Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Either has a chance of starting against Napoli, but they will almost certainly feature from the bench at some stage otherwise.

Both Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho have stood out in pre-season and look set to remain part of the first-team squad and continue their development at Liverpool this season, rather than go out on loan.

Neither will be likely to feature heavily against Napoli, but could get some minutes from the bench and will hope to get some action in the domestic cup games this season.

All four of Sheyi Ojo, Marko Grujic, Lazar Markovic and Divock Origi have been heavily linked with moves away before the transfer window closes next week, and are highly unlikely to feature much, if at all, against Napoli.

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Thursday, July 19, 2018: Liverpool's Dominic Solanke during a preseason friendly match between Blackburn Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Ewood Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dominic Solanke, meanwhile, finds himself behind Firmino and Sturridge in the pecking order, and with Shaqiri’s arrival, has a real battle on his hands to get minutes on the pitch.

But Klopp admires him as a player, and he is likely to have an opportunity at some point in the second-half.

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