Liverpool have a wonderful opportunity to immediately move past the horrendous ending to last season in the first game of the new season. Such an opportunity bestowed by the Football Gods may lead to salvation or further incorrigible damnation. Whatever happens, it appears that Liverpool's new captain is determined to right a notable wrong from last season. In truth, this could be the perfect way to announce himself as the club's new leader and successor to Steven Gerrard. A classic Jordan Henderson performance full of craft and graft with added gravitas would be delightful to see along with a Liverpool victory. The 25-year-old former Sunderland midfielder is ready for action.
"There couldn't be a better place for us to start and put what happened there last season to bed once and for all," Henderson said on Liverpool's first opponents of the season."The lads who were playing that day will remember it for quite some time. It was a horrible day for everyone involved. We have a determination to do better and to improve as a team. We are focusing on the future and that is the first game at Stoke.
"They are a good team but so are we. We will be stronger with the new players that we have got. We are a young team but we have brought in quality. I think the quality we have added will make a big difference. We have got a lot of character in the team. What happened there last year will only make us stronger. We have got to put it to bed. This is a new season, a new start. I think this is a really exciting time. We are quietly confident but we have just got to make sure that we go there, put in a proper performance and get a good result."
Character. Determination. Focus. Strength. Confidence. Result. Improvement. Renewal. All these buzzwords are what's needed on Sunday against a side that has made some impressive signings and should remain a troublesome opponent for many sides travelling to the Britannia Stadium. It is popular to aim jibes at Stoke City's undomesticated approach to the game from the Tony Pulis era, but Mark Hughes continues to look to Barcelona to provide more guile in the final third.
Bojan grew as last season progressed before succumbing to injury, and while Marko Arnautović lost his way from those promising times at FC Twente, he remains a dangerous player. The experience of former Red Glen Johnson, a player who may be invigorated by a move, and the talented former Barcelona schemer Ibrahim Afellay should ensure that Henderson and his team must remain vigilant. Of course, Liverpool have been making a number of signings and should be much improved from that torrid day at Stoke City. Does the captain believe Liverpool's pre-season preparations have provided the squad with enough to confidently start the season?
"We feel good in terms of fitness," Liverpool's club captain said after the victory over HJK Helsinki. "I felt good towards the end of the game and all the lads were the same. We are in a good place. We have been performing well and have got great quality in the team. I still think we need to work on a couple of things this week before Stoke but we will go there with a lot of confidence and belief that we can get a good result. We have got togetherness and we need that going away to Stoke. The fitness levels are good but we have got to be easy mentally. We know what to expect. They are a good team. We know what happened in May but this is a new season."
We know what happened too, and more importantly, so should Brendan Rodgers. This season represents an opportunity for Liverpool's manager to restore a blossoming reputation that was tarnished largely through his own failings last season. The club has the personnel to make the necessary improvements, but Stoke are capable of catching Liverpool cold in the very first game of 2015/16. Liverpool's captain is ready to do what must be done, hopefully those who will start on Sunday will join Henderson in securing victory.