Barcelona’s heightened interest in the Reds’ Brazilian midfield magician, Philippe Coutinho has been the talk of the red half of Merseyside for a number of weeks now. Neymar’s shock switch from the Nou Camp to play for French big-spenders Paris Saint Germain has only intensified Barca’s desire to bring Coutinho to La Liga, severely disrupting Jurgen Klopp’s pre-season plans.
However much Klopp says to the press that the transfer speculation won’t affect Coutinho and the rest of the team, there is no doubt that it will considering the Brazilian’s influential impact on the side last season.
Losing Coutinho would be a bitter pill to swallow for the Reds faithful, who would ultimately be forced to accept being a ‘selling club’ to the ultra-elite clubs in Europe. Klopp reiterates Liverpool are not a selling club and the Anfield faithful will be hoping he remains at the club beyond the 31st August transfer deadline.
Nevertheless, Klopp has plenty of other issues to contend with throughout his squad, with the Reds going into their opening day clash with Watford severely undercooked despite a busy pre-season in south-east Asia. In fact, Watford are a very tempting 11/2 in the Premier League betting with many bookmakers to prevail at Vicarage Road, having strengthened their own front line this week with the capture of Burnley striker, Andre Gray for a club-record £18.5m.
Another transfer story that continues to rumble on surrounds Southampton defender, Virgil Van Dijk. The former Celtic ace has reportedly voiced his wish to join the Anfield club, but as yet, the Saints are digging their heels in and are refusing to let the Dutchman leave without Liverpool paying the full asking price. Reports of Van Dijk refusing to train with the rest of the Saints squad appear to be wide of the mark. However, the powerful defender has now officially submitted a transfer request, which could accelerate matters towards the end of the month.
Support for Coutinho and Co.
The news that playmaker Adam Lallana will be out for at least two months with a thigh injury sustained in pre-season has made it even more important for the Reds to hold onto Coutinho. Red Bull Leipzig’s dynamic Naby Keita continues to be linked with a move to Anfield, but as yet the Reds seem unwilling to pay the full asking price again for another of their key targets – sounding familiar?
The midfield issue becomes even more pertinent in the event Coutinho does depart for Spain, with the untested Marko Grujic next in line for a start.
Are the Youngsters Ready?
The issue of first team squad depth also boils down to the fact that a number of the Reds’ youth teamers simply lack first team experience at any level. Trent Alexander-Arnold looks likely to be given the nod at right back against the Hornets in the absence of Nathaniel Clyne, but beyond that, very few of the youngsters are banging down Jurgen Klopp’s door looking for a first team place on merit. Nevertheless, with five games in 15 days to start the campaign, Klopp may well be forced to call upon his rookies in the league with a critical Champions League play-off also on the horizon.