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.
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.
Top 3 Liverpool Superstars set to Shine at the World Cup
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 will not make the same mistakes as Barcelona and will book their place in the Champions League final
Liverpool were brilliant at times in their 5-2 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Roma. The men from the Italian capital were run ragged for large parts of the game, but in the final ten minutes, with Liverpool 5-0 up, the Reds suffered a minor implosion. Roma hit back with two, potentially crucial, away goals to give them a glimmer of hope.
Roma have already proven that they are capable of overturning huge deficits, having won 3-0 in their second leg quarter final tie to progress against newly-crowned Spanish champions Barcelona. It is the exact same story this time, and if Roma win 3-0 or 4-1 against Liverpool next week, the Reds’ hopes of a sixth European title will crash and burn.
With home advantage comes a duty to defend efficiently in the late stages, which Liverpool utterly failed to do. Regardless, defence is less of an issue in away legs, and Liverpool have no choice but to go for the jugular from the off. Scoring first at the Stadio Olimpico will give Jurgen Klopp’s men a resounding psychological boost, pressurising Roma to come forward, and allow Liverpool to flaunt their devastating counter-attacking skills.
On the night itself, Edin Dzeko will again be a major threat. His near-post finish for Roma’s first goal at Anfield demonstrated his predatory abilities, and with aerial balls proving to be Liverpool’s weakness time and again in the Premier League, a game plan built on marking him out of the game is of primary importance. There is also a likely final against Real Madrid to consider, if Liverpool are to avoid ultimate heartbreak.
Klopp will undoubtedly have studied footage of Barcelona’s second leg collapse, to ensure that Liverpool do not make the same mistakes as the Spanish champions. Composure is also crucial to success, and if Liverpool do bow out on away goals, James Milner will feel haunted for the rest of his life. Just three minutes after Dzeko’s strike, there was an air of panic as Milner was deemed to have handled the ball in the area.
Composure is, of course an element that a player must be born with, or develop naturally. It is near-impossible to ingrain it into a professional footballer during training sessions, least of all within a grizzled veteran like James Milner. While his presence at left-back is a galvanising one within the team, Liverpool can prevent any further defensive mishaps by opting for a less fluid setup in central defence. In what many pundits would see as a mere ‘back to basics’ approach, Klopp needs to instruct his central pairing in the backline close down rather than anticipate mistakes, and maraud in a strategy that favours risk.
Thus far, the good outcomes from a flexible defensive setup have outweighed the bad – as evidenced by Liverpool’s scintillating performances throughout 2017/18. Yet, again, all it takes is one particularly bad moment from a flexible defensive setup in a European tie to see it all unravel. The markets on SportingIndex.com are a further reflection of just how unfancied Liverpool remain (compared to Real Madrid) in terms of actually winning the cup, and much of this is down to set pieces, which also remain an issue for Klopp’s men. Much of this is down to an existing debate as to which of Liverpool’s goalkeepers should start consistently.
Neither of Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius have enjoyed long runs of clean sheets, and one needs only to look at the great Liverpool sides of yore to note that success stems from a constant, reliable presence between the sticks. Jerzy Dudek and Bruce Grobbelaar are both prominent names in that regard. Grobbelaar is, of course, particularly well remembered for his heart-stopping moments, but with the Zimbabwean boasting untold agility and game-reading ability, he serves as a prime example of just how important a defence with great mutual familiarity is to a cohesive attack.
Simply put, it is time for Klopp to decide whether to stick with Karius and sell Mignolet, or just break the bank for a talent like Manuel Neuer. In the backline, Virgil Van Dijk has certainly added an extra degree of toughness to Liverpool’s defence, but he needs a consistent on-field neighbour more than anyone else.
Ultimately, this semi final should be Liverpool’s to negotiate, but Real Madrid are a class apart, as demonstrated by Zinedine Zidane’s tactical demolition of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. Nonetheless, Real Madrid have proven vulnerable to counter attacks all season. Thus, in sorting out the defence once and for all, Klopp can give his men more than a fighting chance of going all the way.
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