It was one of the darkest days in Liverpool's history from an on-pitch perspective. After whimpering out of a challenge for the Champions League places, the Reds ended the season having conceded five goals by half time. The team, devoid of ideas and inspiration despite the looming departure of club legend Steven Gerrard, utterly collapsed at the Britannia Stadium and it could (and perhaps should) have easily cost Brendan Rodgers his job. Redemption has been the theme heading into the new campaign, however, with Liverpool's brightest speaking effusively of the need to put things right for their jaded supporters, and, with a summer of smart spending behind them, there's no reason to suggest that Liverpool aren't capable of doing exactly that.
A lot has changed at Anfield over the summer months, with the arrivals of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke in particular standing out. Behind Andy Carroll, they make up two of the three most expensive signings in the club's history, and the onus will be on them to restore some of the firepower that Liverpool so desperately lacked last season. Thanks to those two, along with impressive preseason outings from the likes of Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe, there's a cautious optimism sweeping throughout the red half of Merseyside that this season could be a success.
Standing in their way, though, are Mark Hughes' men, who have emerged as early Premier League dark horses thanks to some impressive transfer moves. Most notably, Ibrahim Afellay of FC Barcelona and former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson arrived on free transfers, but Reds fans will be buoyed by the news that Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross will be out for two months following spinal surgery. Bojan Krkic, Marc Wilson and Marko Arnautovic are also injury doubts, whilst Liverpool will still be without Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan as they continue to rehab from last season's injuries. Joe Allen will also be missing for up to four weeks after limping off during a preseason friendly with Swindon Town with a hamstring strain.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Clyne / Skrtel / Lovren / Gomez
Henderson / Milner
Ibe / Coutinho / Lallana
The biggest question surrounding Brendan Rodgers' team selection will be whether he opts for Dejan Lovren or Mamadou Sakho in the heart of defense. The decision on who will partner Martin Skrtel at the back seemed a fairly straightforward one even just a few weeks ago, with the French international upstaging his Croatian counterpart at every opportunity last season, but the manager's recent admission that he has yet to choose between the two of them has cast a doubt over Sakho's future. The Frenchman is just too good to lose his place to the often-erratic Lovren, and it will be worrying for Liverpool fans if the manager again puts his faith in the Croat at the expense of Sakho.
Roberto Firmino looks likely to miss out, at least from the start, as he may not yet be fit enough following his excursions at the Copa America and subsequent vacation. Young newcomer Joe Gomez, who took everyone by surprise on Liverpool's preseason tour of Asia, may find himself thrown in at the deep end with doubts surrounding Alberto Moreno's defensive prowess, while Mario Balotelli will be lucky to find himself among the substitutes as the club actively seek a buyer for the mercurial Italian forward.
Kickoff is set for 4:00PM BST/11:00AM EST, with coverage from Sky Sports in the UK and NBCSN in the US. We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.
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