When Liverpool first started chasing Dejan Lovren, the assumption by most fans was that the Southampton and Croatia centre half was being targeted to partner Mamadou Sakho. After all, Sakho had arrived for a similar fee the previous summer and was coming off a strong World Cup performance where he'd been one of France's best during a surprise run to the quarter-finals.
Instead, it appears Liverpool's £16M man is set to partner Martin Skrtel, and with manager Brendan Rodgers having talked about his new two-footed defender being more comfortable on the left and then handing Martin Skrtel the vice-captaincy, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise. And for his part, whether Lovren's here to partner him or compete for minutes, Skrtel certainly sounds high on the new arrival.
"Dejan had a great season with Southampton and I'm really happy that he's with us," Skrtel told his official website. "We all need competition because that is what keeps us motivated. He will make us stronger, so I really welcome his arrival—it will only make me work harder. Liverpool is not only about 11 players, and we will have many games this season so every player will be important."
Skrtel seems a certainty to start on Sunday against Southampton, while Lovren is by far the likeliest to pair with him. Daniel Agger remains largely out of the mix as has been the case since he returned early from the club' pre-season tour, while Sakho unexpectedly didn't make it off the bench against Borussia Dortmund, and that at least would seem to send signal what fans should expect this weekend.
As the Slovak centre half says, though, it's a long season with four competitions. And Brendan Rodgers has shown in the past that he tends to stick with the players and partnerships that are working until form or fitness forces his hand, so even if Skrtel and Lovren are paired for the first six weeks of the season it would be risky to gamble on them being the preferred pairing all the way through to the end.