FULHAM VS. LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, August 6th |
Premier League | Craven Cottage
12:30PM BST/7:30AM EST
Liverpool again start the season away against newly-promoted opposition, and, as ever, it’s difficult to evaluate Fulham in the context of the top tier. Fulham were far and away the best team in the Championship last season, with a record of 27 wins, nine draws, and 10 losses in their 46 total games (1.97 PPG, 90 total points in the Championship) — though their goal difference of +63 is the headline.
But we’ve been here before. Aleksander Mitrović absolutely loves the Championship; in fact, he flat out bullies it.
Fulham have been a yo-yo club in recent years, and a major part of the reason for that is Mitrović’s seeming inability to get anything close to his Championship goal tally in the top division. Last season he scored 43 goals (all of which came from inside the penalty area); when Fulham were last in the Premier League in 2020/21, he managed just three (four in all comps). In the Championship in 2019/20, he scored 26; in the Premier League the previous season, he scored 11.
Mitrović has never managed an xG of over 20 in the top flight.
So, as always, a central question for Fulham is “Will Mitrović score this season?”
Of course, he’s not the entire team, and the likes of Bobby Decordova-Reid and our mate Harry Wilson will look to contribute to the scoresheet over the course of the season. Thanks to us, they have a Fábio Carvalho-shaped hole in their attack (he scored the second-most goals  last season, and was also there and thereabouts in terms of assists and chances created). It’s possible that Fulham are aiming to replace Carvalho’s creativity via new signing Andreas Pereira (yes, that Andreas Pereira: signed from Manchester United, fresh off a loan from Flamengo where he committed the error that cost them the Copa Libertadores), but we shall see.
Fulham have been dealt a blow there in addition to the loss of Carvalho: Harry Wilson has suffered a pre-season injury that will see him sidelined. Wilson has been central to Fulham’s attack (third-most goals last season , and most assists [19, xA 30]; second-most chances created). His loss will be a real gut-punch for the Cottagers, and the fact that his knee injury is likely to keep him out long-term means Fulham may well be scrambling to replace him as well as Carvalho for at least the start of the season.
Other than Wilson, Nathaniel Chalobah is out injured, but everyone else is fit.
As always, it’s difficult to predict how well dominant teams from the Championship will do when they’re Goliaths-turned-Davids upon reaching the Premier League. Fulham are used to attacking and exerting their will on the opposition, and their new signings largely come from teams accustomed to similar in their own leagues. Though the gaps in attack are what I’ve focused on here, the organization of their defense is likely to be the central tell against Liverpool. Can Fulham stay compact and organized all while taking any and all chances Liverpool give them?
Liverpool on opening day should prove to be a test of adapted grit for the runaway champions. Manager Marco Silva will hope to avoid the result he managed last time he faced Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool...
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Diaz
Liverpool will have Alisson back for the season opener, but everyone else who was out is either just back in training (Naby Keïta, recovering from illness), nearly back (Kostas Tsimikas, Curtis Jones), uncertain but not back fit (Diogo Jota), or out for longer time (Caoimhín Kelleher, Ibrahima Konaté). Konaté and Jota are worrying here, but time will tell.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kaide Gordon, and Calvin Ramsay are also still out, but may have been unlikely to feature anyway.
All together it’s a lot of injuries to start a campaign with, though at least on some accounts the hope is that caution is being employed as fitness levels are still being re-gained after time off.
Despite the injury list, Klopp still has a full XI of experienced players to select from, as well as promising youthful talent in Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho — leaving aside the likes of Darwin Núñez.
Klopp has five subs to work with on Saturday, so it’s possible that the lineup will include planned subs later on to maximize fitness levels and tactical balance given this added flexibility. Due his relatively short time with the squad, I would lean towards expecting Núñez to come off the bench to terrorize a tired Fulham defense on 60’+ rather than start — but is there any starting line-up that you’d complain about?
Welcome to a new season. Here we go...
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “[Carvalho] is a top player, a massive talent. He’ll be very important for us,” Klopp told reporters. We count on this age group as well. He’s ready like Harvey is ready. That’s really cool. We all need luck in life with injuries but without that he’ll be a top player for us.”
Marco Silva: “We know it will be different. We won’t be so dominant like we were last season. We want to keep building from what we did last season.”
Referee: Andy Madley; Assistants: Dan Cook, Derek Eaton; Fourth Official: Tony Harrington; VAR: Stuart Attwell; Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick
Kickoff is set for 3PM GMT/10AM EST tomorrow. Stick with The Liverpool Offside team to keep yourself up to date with team news and match buildup, live updates, and post-match reaction. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account and have your say on the action as it happens.