The 2017/18 season was a rather successful one for Liverpool. Not only did the Reds finish fourth in the league, but they also made it to the Champions League final. One of the greatest achievements to inspire hope for next season is the fact that they toppled the Premier League-dominating Manchester City twice in the Champions League and at Anfield in the league. But, first, there’s the small matter of the 2018 World Cup in Russia to enjoy.
As a top-class team, Liverpool have many star players going to the World Cup but the three who stood out during the domestic season are the three who are set to impress the most in the international tournament. Saido Mane and Roberto Firmino could be star players for their teams, while Mohamed Salah could return as his nation’s saviour.
Firmino could lead the line for Brazil
By the looks of things, Brazil are going to have one of the best, if not the best, squads in the World Cup. They boast a strong defence, solid goalkeeping, a midfield that can be packed with hard workers and playmakers, and a very enviable attack. Headlining the attack will be ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Taison, Neymar, and Roberto Firmino.
It is not yet clear how Brazil are going to set up for their first game. Against Croatia in the June 3rd friendly at Anfield, they played 4-1-4-1 with Jesus leading the line and Willian and Coutinho on the wings. The three central midfielders are very defensively-inclined – Paulinho, Fernandinho, and Casemiro – which isn’t how Brazil are expected to set up. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Coutinho take a central role with Neymar and Jesus either side of Firmino – who came on to score in that friendly. Then again, despite his form this season, Firmino has been limited to cameo roles for his country.
Firmino’s style of play draws defenders and creates holes in the defence, giving his wingers more opportunities to get in the box and score – as he did this season with Salah and Mane. On top of this, he’s quite the clinical scorer himself. Even in a limited capacity, he could still have a big impact.
Mane’s the main man for Senegal
Before this tournament, the only time that Senegal had made it to the World Cup was in 2002, when they made it to the quarter-finals. The team boasted names like Papa Bouba Diop, Aliou Cisse, Henri Camara, and El Hadji Diouf, but there’s a greater feeling of hope around the 2018 batch.
With the commanding presence of Kalidou Koulibaly at centre-back, Idrisa Gueye dominating the midfield, and Sadio Mane ready to pounce up top, Senegal look to have the makings of a bogey team this year. In a tight-knit group of Poland, Colombia, and Japan, Senegal could very well muscle their way out. In the World Cup Betting, Senegal are 4/1 to escape with Colombia and 6/1 to escape with Poland.
Sadio Mane looks to be their main attacking threat and, as he showed against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, it’s very difficult to keep the pacey winger quiet.
Salah could still star for Egypt
The Champions League final ended early for Mohamed Salah as he sustained a shoulder injury. Luckily for football fans, the flamboyant winger has been making good progress in his rehabilitation and has been called up by Egypt.
The thinking is that Salah won’t be out for more than three weeks, as of June 3rd, which would put him in line to play in Egypt’s final group stage game, against Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the crucial game is their second, against Russia. A win against Russia could see them usurp the favoured team to go through, as they’re expected to defeat Saudi Arabia. Having Salah on the field five days earlier, on June 19th, could propel Egypt to a glorious campaign.
As was the case during the domestic season, the Liverpool players set to shine on the international stage are Roberto Firmino, Saido Mane, and quite possibly Mohamed Salah as well.
Liverpool Remain Challengers but Reinforcements may be Needed
Liverpool made a stunning start to the 2018/19 season with six straight Premier League wins, while the icing on the cake was a thrilling 3-2 Champions League victory against Paris Saint-Germain – a fantastic way to get the Reds’ European campaign up and running.
Elimination from the EFL Cup by Chelsea at Anfield, followed by a Premier League draw against the Blues just a few days later, made for a disappointing end to September. After the frustrating Champions League defeat at Napoli to start October, fans and pundits alike are wondering whether further signings are needed to strengthen the squad.
Despite hitting a few bumps in the road of late, Liverpool remain the outright betting favourites at MoPlay to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title at 9/4. The two met for the first time this season on Sunday, playing out a goalless draw which keeps the unbeaten pair together on 20 points with eight games played.
If the Reds don’t get back to winning ways, and quickly, questions will inevitably continue to be raised. Likewise, the gossip columns are already suggesting that despite an excellent summer of transfer activity, this squad still isn’t the finished article and additional reinforcements are needed, if the team is to genuinely challenge for silverware this season.
One potential transfer target doing the rounds again is Brazilian left-back Alex Telles, who was already linked in June and was even mentioned in the Media Watch section of the official Liverpool website, after various outlets had published rumours suggesting he was destined for a move to Anfield.
Although no deal was eventually concluded before the summer transfer window slammed shut, 25-year-old Telles apparently remains a target thanks to his outstanding performances at FC Porto, consistently clocking up the highest match ratings for his team this season, both on the domestic front in the Portuguese league and in the Champions League.
Indeed, Telles produced a man-of-the-match display that will undoubtedly have interested Liverpool officials, who were reportedly in attendance as FC Porto beat Galatasaray 1-0 in the Champions League, weighing up the possibility of making a €40 million swoop when the January transfer window opens.
Liverpool are hardly lacking when it comes to left-back options, though a move for Telles is regarded as one which will provide stiff competition for Andrew Robertson, who has been excellent since his arrival from Hull City in 2017.
James Milner showed great versatility to deputise last season in the same position, although he has since returned to playing in his more natural midfield roles. Meanwhile, Alberto Moreno has continued to see his opportunities diminish under Jurgen Klopp and hasn’t played a single minute this season.
As such, 26-year-old Moreno has already been tipped for a return to Spain, reports recently linking Barcelona with interest in a January move that could revive his career, as they seek additional left-back cover for Jordi Alba. Such a move would undoubtedly pave the way for Liverpool to solidify their interest in FC Porto star Telles.
Firmino to start: Liverpool’s 4-3-3 predicted XI to face Paris Saint-Germain
Liverpool start their Champions League journey with a tough tie against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield on Tuesday.
The Reds have won all their matches in the Premier League so far and will go into the game after a fantastic performance against Tottenham on Saturday.
Liverpool lead the Premier League standings but taking on PSG will be a different task. The French champions have a number of attacking outlets but we are blessed with talent all across the field.
Roberto Firmino did pick up an eye injury at Wembley and here is our predicted starting XI for the Reds.
Predicted Liverpool XI
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
The Brazilian is a sure-shot starter for our first Champions League game of the season and he must maintain a clean sheet against PSG.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)
The English defender was great at Wembley and we should see him start ahead of Nathaniel Clyne as our right-back.
Joe Gomez (CB)
Gomez has formed a great partnership at the back with Virgil van Dijk and should keep his place in the team.
Virgil van Dijk (CB)
The Dutch defender has been excellent from the first game of the season and going up against Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will be a true test of our defence.
Andy Robertson (LB)
Robertson has been great and will face a major test against the French side on Tuesday.
Georginio Wijnaldum (CM)
One of the goalscorers from Wembley, Wijnaldum must start for us as the Dutch midfielder has been excellent for us this term.
James Milner (CM)
Another player to have started brightly this season, Milner should keep his place in the team to face Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Naby Keita (CM)
The Guinean was guilty of a couple of misses in the 2-1 win over Tottenham but he must aim to score against PSG to make amends.
Mohamed Salah (RW)
Salah was guilty of being extremely selfish against Tottenham but the Egyptian must do better on Tuesday.
Roberto Firmino (ST)
The Brazilian was poked in the eye by Jan Vertonghen and had to be subbed in the last game but he should return for the Reds at Anfield.
Sadio Mane (LW)
The Senegal attacker was another player who was selfish against Tottenham but played a role in Firmino’s goal on Saturday.
Liverpool’s Premier League Odds Cut After Positive Pre-Season
If you spoke to the average Liverpool fan in the street and asked them about the outlook for the new season, you’ll probably have received a positive assessment lately. Of course, it’s often a criticism levelled at Liverpool fans that they get too wide-eyed and optimistic before a new campaign begins. But, stopping short of saying “this time it’s different”, there is a sense that progress is being made and, crucially, last season’s momentum has been maintained throughout the summer.
However, is a reality that all Liverpool fans must accept – for the moment anyway. Namely, that Manchester City are overwhelming favourites for the title. Their odds, coming in at around 4/6 with most bookies, are among the shortest in history for an ante-post Premier League season. Frankly – despite our good results against them last season – it’s going to be tough to rein in Pep Guardiola’s men.
Reds’ odds cut after solid transfer business
In saying that, bookmakers feel that the Reds are the most likely side to take the crown from City. In fact, Liverpool’s odds have been moving in a downward trajectory over the summer. It might not seem much in real terms, but before the World Cup you could find Liverpool at around 5/1 – they are now 4/1 with the majority of the main UK bookmakers, but as low as 3/1 with 10Bet. Regardless of who you bet with, be sure to check out free bets for this season at thebookiesoffers.co.uk.
Incidentally, Manchester United are priced as big as 10/1 (Black Type) to win the league, which is by far the biggest odds they have been given before a campaign kicks off. In contrast to Liverpool, United’s odds have pushed longer during the summer (they were around 6/1 a month ago), partly due to a (relative) lack of spending in the transfer market and the usual doom-mongering from Jose Mourinho.
Rivals frustrated in transfer market
So, what are the factors to have caused Liverpool’s odds to shorten over the last six weeks? It’s a couple of things really: there is a consensus that Liverpool’s signings have been both shrewd and ambitious; performances in friendlies, although not always a good indicator of form, have been positive. There is also the simple explanation that Liverpool’s rivals – City, United, Spurs, Chelsea – have not improved their squads with quite the same emphasis as the Reds.
Rather than make assumptions about how the title race will go, it might be better to measure Liverpool’s summer as one with which demonstrable progress has been made. Klopp and the board have zeroed in on areas of concern in the squad and, by and large solved the problem. It gives us a platform of optimism for the new season.
A good start essential
However, things have to go right on the pitch from day one. Liverpool had just seven players in Russia (compared to the 16 from Manchester City), but they were nearly all key men. A fatigued start from our front three will not sit well with Klopp’s high-octane tactics. Indeed, one could argue that Mané, Firmino and, especially, Salah were operating at the absolute peak of their powers last season. Any drop in those levels, even if just a few percent, and there will be no talk of a title push.
Above all though, we can look forward to the new season from a point of good-will and optimism. Let’s put title talk aside for the moment and be content with the fact we are continuing to build. Where it leads remains to be seen.
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