LIVERPOOL VS WEST HAM
| Saturday, November 4th |
Premier League | Anfield
1:30PM GMT / 8:30AM EST
WAKE UP! It’s time! It’s here! Finally!
Liverpool’s season is set to kick off tomorrow morning at Anfield. Due to the years of offseason renovations to the stadium, this will be the first time that the Reds have kicked off their season at home since the 2014-15 opener against Southampton. (You may have forgotten this, if you, like me, scrubbed that season out of your brain.)
This is also the first year when the transfer window in England has closed prior to the season beginning. The early parts of last season were marred by the ongoing Philippe Coutinho saga that saw the midfielder submit a transfer request and refuse to play in the team’s opening matches — including their big Champions League qualifier against Hoffenheim.
The transfer window remains open elsewhere in Europe, which means that while some players may yet leave the club by the end of the month, no new ones can be added. This may prove problematic for Liverpool after Dejan Lovren returned from his vacation with an untreated stomach muscle issue that may keep him out for an extended period. That news comes at a terrible time for the club, with the defense already missing Joël Matip and Ragnar Klavan for sure, and with Joe Gomez still recovering from injury.
The way that Jürgen Klopp will choose to line his players up tomorrow is a mystery, but one thing is for certain: record signing goalkeeper Alisson will be starting between the sticks for the Reds. And barring any unforeseen circumstances, the three-man wrecking crew of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah will be up front doing their best to make the West Ham players cry.
Speaking of the opposition, the Hammers are coming into this season with plenty of changes to their team. At the very top, out went David Moyes and in came Manuel Pellegrini, who is tasked with improving morale and performances after a dismal last season that saw the Hammers finish in 13th place, only nine points above the relegation zone. The team has also brought in nine new players from around Europe, including Jack Wilshere and Lukasz Fabianski. The thought seems to be quantity over quality, so we’ll have to see how it works out for them.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Clyne, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keïta, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a young player who is still recovering from the World Cup. Though he didn’t play much, it’s still likely that Klopp gives him another week off before returning him to the starting line-up. Meanwhile, this could only mean good things for Nathaniel Clyne, who deserves a chance to win his spot back now that he’s fully recovered from the unfortunate injury that kept him out for the majority of last season. And if that means Klopp now has two excellent, fit players vying for that right-back position, then that can only mean good things for Liverpool as well.
World Cup runner-up Lovren, as previously mentioned, returned from his vacation complaining of a stomach issue, and may end up facing an extended spell on the sidelines. Meanwhile, other center-backs Klavan and poor Matip will not be ready tomorrow either. Therefore, the starting spot beside Van Dijk will either fall to Gomez, if he’s fit, or the youngster Nathaniel Phillips, who Klopp seemed impressed by in pre-season. Phillips got a huge vote of confidence from Klopp when the manager started him against Torino. That may have been preparation because Klopp knows he’ll need him on Sunday.
The real mystery will be how Klopp sets up his midfield. There’s plenty of unknowns there, including the fitness of captain Jordan Henderson, still recovering from England’s deep World Cup run, and new boy Fabinho, who is being assessed for a late decision. Naby Keïta appears ready to make his long-awaited, official debut as a Red. Gini Wijnaldum has shined in pre-season, so expect to see him on the pitch — though whether it’s as a number six or pushed further forward, we’ll have to see. Is Adam Lallana in the conversation to start? Judging by his pre-season form, probably not, but Klopp has always liked him, so there may be a surprise in the cards.
Another interesting thing to look out for is how Shaqiri might fit in. When Liverpool acquired the Swiss international from Stoke for a cut-rate price, everyone believed he was being brought on as depth. However, he’s looked impressive during the pre-season in a number of positions, so could we see him start as part of the midfield tomorrow? Perhaps.
And while it’s almost certain that the attack writes itself, there’s high hopes for Daniel Sturridge this season, so cross your fingers for him to be a super sub in the second half.
As for West Ham — prepare yourself, because what I’m about to say may shock you — Andy Carroll is out injured. Other players unavailable to Pellegrini tomorrow include Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, and Edimilson Fernandes. Expect this new-look Hammers squad to start plenty of new faces. It’s possible that Liverpool will be playing them at the right time, before the manager gets all these new parts working together the right way.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “People ask me already if it’s the best squad we have ever had - I don’t think about that because it’s not about what we have now, it’s about what we make of it. It’s about how often we deliver.”
Manuel Pellegrini: “For me as a manager, it’s difficult when you don’t have options. We have options, I choose the starting XI and they know that during the whole season, you need a strong squad. We have two players in each position and they must work in a competitive way and it’s my duty to pick the team I think is the best.”
Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn Fourth official: Paul Tierney
And a season kick-off poll, just for fun, we want to know who you think will score Liverpool’s first goal of the season. And as a reminder, if you’re visiting on Google AMP, you can access the poll by returning to the story from the front page.
Who will score Liverpool’s first Premier League goal of the season?
This poll is closed
Virgil Van Dijk
Someone else I’ll tell you in the comments
Kickoff is set for 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
Here at TLO Towers, we know from experience that World Cup years bring an influx of new football fans who may be testing their toes in the Premier League waters. So if this is your first Liverpool game and you were seduced by the proud majesty of Mohamed Salah; the easy smile, slick dance moves and even slicker ball control of Sadio Mané; the passionate, unmovable wall of Dejan Lovren; the quiet, selfless hyper-efficiency of Jordan Henderson; the criminally under-utilized (don’t get us started on this) manic brilliance of Roberto Firmino; or simply the long, storied history of the club itself, we encourage you to join the community and say hi. We love new people around here. When you’re a Liverpool fan, you never walk alone.
In the meantime, and as always, 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 the action as it happens.