One day almost gone in the new season, and we're almost finally at the one that matters. Last season ended on a dulled high note, getting two goals in quick succession to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Newcastle, but the previous two weeks' failings meant that the league title--suddenly the expectation rather than the dream--was lost, and we were left to wait for the next season yet again, for the time when this is our year would actually become our year.
So we're finally here, but there's no certainty about whether or not this season will provide another chance for dreams to turn to expectation. What is clear is that Brendan Rodgers--now in his third season as boss--has a clear vision for his squad, and he's added players he feels will fit that vision throughout. Luis Suarez is gone, but the additions this summer bring quality of their own, and the part they'll play in the season to come will be vital. The spine is the same bar Suarez, and those just arriving will hopefully add to the momentum created by last season's title challenge.
It looks as though at least a few will have a chance to do so against Southampton, whose business in the summer window has mostly been by force rather than choice. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, and Dejan Lovren have been brought in at Liverpool, Luke Shaw went to Manchester United, and Calum Chambers was sold to Arsenal, with strong links to Spurs for Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez.
New manager Ronald Koeman may yet win the fight to keep Schneiderlin and Rodriguez, however, and the work they've done to bring others aboard--Dusan Tadic, Fraser Forster, Shane Long, Graziano Pelle, Saphir Taider, and Ryan Bertrand will all be expected to make an impact--has left them in decent stead despite the string of high-profile exits. Forster, Tadic, Pelle, Tadier, and Bertrand all started in the final friendly against Leverkusen along with holdovers Jose Fonte, Victor Wanyama, Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse, Gaston Ramirez and Maya Yoshida.
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Johnson
Sterling Sturridge Coutinho
Yesterday we learned about the absentees, with Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Daniel Agger, and Jon Flanagan all ruled out through injury. No word on the fitness of Fabio Borini, who was pictured in training this week along with Tiago Ilori. Alberto Moreno isn't yet eligible (and hasn't been announced as of writing) and should be the only other squad member that isn't available.
The team that faced Dortmund should more or less be the one we get tomorrow, with changes coming in defense and midfield if we get any. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren will surely start as the first-choice central defensive pairing and Glen Johnson looks nailed-on to start in one of the fullback roles, with the only question being who will feature on the opposite side. For now it looks like Javier Manquillo has earned another start with his performance last Sunday, but Jose Enrique is a possibility and the addition of Moreno will mix things up further.
Midfield is settled with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, but who joins them isn't 100% clear. Emre Can seems the consensus pick and will likely start, though Joe Allen or Lucas might feature if Can isn't fit. Henderson and Can add about as much energy as possible in a midfield with Gerrard, and could conceivably adapt to a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, or 4-4-2 diamond. Options.
The three up front--again regardless of formation--will be Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge, and there's no discussion needed. If goals are coming for Liverpool this season, they're going to be at the heart. Rickie Lambert might have a part to play off the bench against his former club, while Jordon Ibe, Suso, and, as a long shot, Borini, could also see minutes.
Kickoff is set for 1:30PM BST/8:30AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.