The football is finally back and Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge for their Premier League opener.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Premier League (1) | Stamford Bridge
August 13, 2023 | 4.30pm (BST)
It has been a long summer without Liverpool.
While the more obsessive of you may have followed Jurgen Klopp‘s side’s pre-season excursions to Germany, Singapore and Preston, they were no match for the real thing.
In the way of the Reds’ first three points are Chelsea, with whom Liverpool currently find themselves trapped in a transfer standoff for Moises Caicedo and/or Romeo Lavia.
Come Sunday, it will be refreshing to see things settled on the pitch.
Here are 10 things you need to know ahead of Liverpool’s season opener:
1. No easy starts
It is the toughest opening-day fixture Liverpool have had for a while. Though the Reds drew at Fulham in their first match last season, they have a good record in recent years.
The Reds have won eight and drawn two of their last 10 opening-day fixtures, since a 3-0 defeat at West Brom in 2012.
Liverpool have also scored at least two goals each of the last seven first-day outings.
2. A fully fit squad – well, almost
Injury problems plagued Liverpool’s last campaign, but the Reds are in much better shape at the start of this one.
Stefan Bajectic and Thiago have returned to training following lengthy lay-offs, but are unlikely to play any part given their lack of match fitness.
Meanwhile, Conor Bradley is the only other doubt to a minor injury, but likely wouldn’t be in the squad regardless.
Apart from that, the Reds are ready to go!
3. “Liverpool FC Reloaded”
Another classic one-liner from the boss saw him describe his squad as “reloaded,” helping to generate excitement for the new season.
Klopp added: “It’s a new chance for everybody, everybody has to step up, the new leadership group and not only them.”
There does seem to be a renewed energy around the Reds, but they need to back that up on the pitch to keep the mood positive.
4. The new system to stay
Liverpool’s new on-the-ball formation is set to play, with the Reds having retained the system in pre-season.
There are plenty of selection decisions for the manager, but midfielders are thin on the ground.
Predicted XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Gakpo; Salah, Jota, Diaz
5. The debut-makers
Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are both set to make their competitive debuts for the Reds after impressing in pre-season.
Both played in at least four of Liverpool’s summer fixtures but also suffered setbacks along the way.
They were just minor injury worries, though, and they look ready to bring a renewed energy to Klopp’s midfield.
For Chelsea, it is manager Mauricio Pochettino’s first game in charge, and Reece James should start as club captain for the first time.
6. Chelsea’s run-up to the game
One man who won’t be making his debut on Sunday is Chelsea‘s Christopher Nkunku.
The Frenchman signed in the summer but has since suffered a serious knee injury that could put him out until the new year. Wesley Fofana and Armando Broja are also missing with long-term issues.
Like Liverpool, Chelsea played five pre-season fixtures to prepare for the new season.
7. A new dugout
Pochettino is switching dugouts at Stamford Bridge in more than one way.
In his pre-match press conference, he confirmed that he would be standing in the same technical area that he occupied on his visits with Tottenham.
This is because he has decided to turn the old away dugout into the new home area at Stamford Bridge.
This means Klopp and co. will now be consigned to the old home dugout.
Pochettino reasoned: “We are moving I think, because we have better space and I think it is better to be on the right.
“I think it’s the best because you are in the middle, you are at home and you control everything. That for me is important.”
Pochettino has managed against Liverpool 16 times, winning just three games – two of them being as Southampton boss.
8. A battle off the pitch
Tensions will be high ahead of the match as the two clubs have been vying for the same players in the transfer window.
By the time you read this, things may have changed, such is the fluid nature of the market.
One thing’s for sure, neither will be playing at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
9. Who is the referee?
Taking charge of Liverpool’s first game this season will be Anthony Taylor.
The Greater Manchester-born official will be flanked by Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn, while Darren England is the lead VAR.
David Coote will be the fourth official.
10. Follow the match with TIA
TIA’s matchday live blog will be up and running from 4pm, with Henry Jackson tasked with keeping you entertained and up-to-date.
Come on you Reds!