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Confirmed Liverpool Team: Klopp springs double surprise; £66m-trio left out; 'fantastic' signing starts

As expected, Daniel Sturridge is out of today's pre-season clash with Chelsea, and he joins several other big names on the sidelines, and/or on the bench.

LIVERPOOL: Karius, Randall, Klavan, Lovren, Moreno, Grujic, Ejaria, Stewart, Coutinho, Mane, Firmino

SUBS: Manninger, Milner, Henderson, Lallana, Brannagan, Alexander Arnold, Ings, Wisdom, Markovic, Ojo

CHELSEA: Begovic; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry (c), Aina; Fabregas, Matic; Wilian, Traore, Loftus-Cheek, Moses.

* It's a minor surprise to see Ejaria and Stewart starting over Hendo and Markovic (who has featured in all of the club's pre-season games so far), but Ejaria arguably deserves his place after impressing in previous matches.

* With Liverpool's Belgian contingent still getting up to speed, new signing Alex Manninger makes the bench.

* It'll be interesting to see how Klavan gets on. He's ostensibly a cover player, but if he hits the ground running he'll present Jurgen Klopp with a good defensive selection dilemma.

With any luck, it'll be an entertaining game, and Mane will hopefully get off the mark.

Confirmed Team News (Liverpool/Chelsea): 'Fantastic' signing starts; £67m-trio out; Wijnaldum bad news - he's out. Injured?

After several mickey mouse training games, Liverpool face their first real pre-season test tonight against Chelsea, and several of the club's new signings are sure to start the game. Unfortunately, there are also a couple of high-profile absentees, including perpetual sicknote Daniel Sturridge.

According to ESPN:

"Daniel Sturridge will not be involved against Chelsea, a club source has told ESPN FC. Liverpool have withdrawn [him] as a precautionary measure. Also missing will be Wijnaldum, Benteke and Origi^".

Lucas Leiva and Joel Matip are also out injured, and according to the Liverpool Echo:

"Ragnar Klavan^ is set to make his Reds debut against Chelsea".

On the defensive front, ESPN further claims:

"Nathaniel Clyne has been ruled out with a tight hamstring. A club source said the decision to withdraw the full-back was a precaution".

Wijnaldum's absence is a disappointment as I'm sure most Reds fans were looking forward to seeing him in action. As for Sturridge - everyone will immediately think the worst, but the more realistic scenario is that he's not match-fit enough yet, and Klopp is - like last season - being overly cautious (or responsible, depending on your POV).

Possible Lineups:

---------------- Karius
Randall ---- Lovren - Klavan --- Moreno
------------- Can ---- Hendo/Grujic
Mane ---------- Firmino -- Coutinho
---------------- Ings

OR:

---------------- Karius
Milner ---- Lovren - Wisdom --- Moreno
---------- Grujic ---- Hendo
Lallana ------ Coutinho -- Mane
--------------- Firmino

To be honest, these lineups are less than inspiring.

* Jul 2016: Described by Estonia boss Magnus Pehrsson as 'fantastic'.

* Benteke, Sturridge, and Origi: combined cost/worth = £67m

Done Deal: Liverpool seal summer transfer for 'unbelievable' Brazilian Klopp hailed as 'outstanding'. One year loan

In March, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insisted that Reds youngster Allan Rodrigues De Souza 'will be a fixed part of the squad in the future, but it appears that the plan to integrate the talented Brazilian into the squad will have to wait for another year.

According to the Liverpool Echo:

"Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Allan Rodrigues de Souza has joined Hertha Berlin on loan".

Hertha Berlin also officially confirmed the transfer via a post on the club's Twitter account.

Allan is still unable to secure a UK work permit, but even if he'd got one, the reduced number of games next season means he'd probably spend most of the year on the bench and/or playing for the U21s. This way, he'll be able to continue playing competitive first-team football, which can only be good for his development.

Klopp certainly seems to be a fan of the youngster. Reacting to Allan's recent call-up to Brazil U20 training camp in Rio, Klopp enthused:

"He [Allan] is an outstanding talent [and] will be a fixed part of the squad in the future, for sure. He's a good player with a good attitude, everybody loves him.”

Long-term, the odds on Allan becoming a first-team regular are incredibly slim. Historically, no foreign-born attacker has ever come through the academy to become a first-team regular, and when you consider the struggles faced by the likes of Suso, Pacheco, Teixeira (and dozens of others), it's clear that Allan has a huge job on his hands.

Having the confidence of the manager is half the battle, so perhaps Allan may buck the trend...?

* Oct 2015: Described by SJK boss Simo Valakari as an 'unbelievable talent'.


Author: Jaimie K

Top Transfer: Nicol insist Liverpool have signed a £34m game-changer who's 'as good as anyone in the Prem'

Is Sadio Mane a good signing? From a financial perspective, Liverpool have been ripped off yet again, but from a football perspective, there's no denying that Mane is a potentially exciting transfer, and Liverpool legend Steve Nicol is convinced that the Senegalese attacker will prove to be a good signing for the club.

When asked about Mane this week, Nicol told ESPN:

"Sadio Mane, one-on-one, attacking is good as anyone in the Premier League. He can dip his shoulder, and score goals".

Ridiculous 185% price increase notwithstanding (from £11.7m to £34m), Mane is clearly a massive upgrade on Jordon Ibe, and like all Reds fans, I'm hoping he'll be a regular goalscorer and creator for Liverpool.

However, I still can't shake the nagging doubt that Mane will struggle for consistency at Anfield, and the following performance issues form the basis of my concern:

* Southampton Year One: Scored a goal every 215 mins, and created a goal every 385 mins. Individually, these stats are average.

* 2014-15: Failed to create a single goal for 5 months (Dec 28th 2014 till the end of the season). History repeated itself the following season.

* 2015-16: Failed to create a single goal for 5 months (Dec 28th 2015 till the end of the season).

* 2015-16: Failed to score in 16 games in a row (Dec 5th to Mar 12).

* 2015-16: Not in the Premier League's top 20 for assists or key passes.

Many fans will choose to ignore these facts (I wish I could do the same), but going five months without an assist in two consecutive seasons is a huge concern. If Liverpool are to have any chance of challenging for the top four this season, Mane needs to break this particular negative trend, and start contributing in the second half of the season.

The last thing Liverpool need is another Adam Lallana, another ex-Southampton player who is prone to long barren spells.

Anfield Megadeal? Liverpool make massive €40m offer for 'superb' international who's like 'Iniesta'

In May, Liverpool were linked with a summer move for 'superb' Sporting Lisbon star Joao Mario, and it appears that the Reds' interest in the Portuguese international is real.

When asked this week about Mario's future, his father told Diario de Noticias:

"I was informed that the club said no to €35m plus €10m in bonuses from Inter and to €40m from Liverpool".

It's unclear when Liverpool made this particular offer, but if it's a recent development, it may mean that the Reds are still monitoring Mario, and if that's the case, there's a possibility that the club may submit another offer before the transfer window closes.

According to Portuguese legend Paulo Futre:

"He [Mario] is the most important player in the Portuguese league [and] he is a natural replacement for Iniesta at Barcelona"

High praise indeed, but this description doesn't match the player who struggled to make any real, measurable impact for Portugal at Euro 2016.

Mario - who most often plays as an attacking midfielder (usually on the wing) - display Lots of industry but very little end product (1 assist/0 goals in 7 games), which is part of the reason why Portugal won just ONE game (in open play) en-route to the final.

In other words, like Adam Lallana, Mario *looks* dangerous, but flatters to deceive when it comes to making a game-changing impact. Mario's stats for Sporting are similarly average:

* 14 goals/17 assists 92 apps (G every 486 mins. G/A every 219 mins).

Not bad, but arguably not worth €40m. As such, I'm personally glad that Mario is the proverbial 'one that got away'.

Done Deal: Liverpool officially confirm 'transfer' for 'wonderful' £55k-a-week Euro 2016 sensation

It's official: after months of speculation over his future, Joe Allen is no longer a Liverpool player.

According to an official statement from LFC:

"Joe Allen has today completed a permanent transfer to Stoke City. Everyone at Liverpool wishes Joe the best of luck in his future career".

The transfer fee is reportedly £13m, which seems a bit on the low side for a player who made the Euro 2016 team of the tournament. However, Allen - hailed last week by Jurgen Klopp as a 'wonderful player' - has only one year left on his contract, so it makes sense to sell now rather than risk a free transfer next summer.

In my view, Stoke is a good move for Allen. He'll probably be one of the first names on the team-sheet, and Mark Hughes is a fairly progressive manager whose teams try and play positive, passing football.

Allen's experience at Anfield is a cautionary tale for multi-functional players. Allen arrived as a man without a position, and after struggling to become a first-team regular, he left the same way, having failed to excel in a specific role.

Yes, Allen can do a job at DM; he can be decent deep-lying playmaker, and he can do okay playing a more advanced role (as he did at times under Klopp), but he's not the first (or even second) name on the team-sheet for any of those positions.

And that's how it often goes with multi-functional players. With any luck, Mark Hughes will have a specific, well-defined role in mind for Allen, which he'll be able to make his own. If not, then history will repeat itself at Stoke City.

Good luck, Joe!

^ Reportedly on £55k-a-week at LFC

Offer Made: Liverpool pushing to sign 'classy' £13m record-breaker who told Wijnaldum he'd 'see' him soon'

Last season, Liverpool were linked with a move for PSV Eindhoven left-back Jetro Willems, and new reports today suggest that the Reds have reignited interest in the Dutch defender.

According to The Telegraph:

"Liverpool have made a £13m bid for Jetro Willems [who] is a good friend of Georginio Wijnaldum".

Willems has further fuelled speculation with the following weekend tweet:

"I wish you all the best at your new club my friend, we'll see each other again soon!".

Is this a Freudian slip from Willems, or just a standard friendly 'Au Revoir'?

Some info about Willems, described by PSV manager Philip Cocu as an 'classy' player:

* Left-back, who can also play as a left-midfielder.

* PSV: 10 goals/31 assists (41) in 160 apps (goal/assist every 311 mins). 15 apps for the Dutch national team.

* Last Two Seasons: 26 goals/assists in 61 games for PSV (Goal/assist every 179 mins)

* Feb 2015: Sent off after just 29 seconds against NAC Breda. Fastest red card in Dutch league history.

* Jun 2012: Youngest player to ever feature at the European Championships. Featured in all three group games for the Netherlands.

* Aug 2015: Visited Newcastle United as a guest of Giorgino Wijnaldum.

I'm rarely enthused by links to young players, but in this case, Willems' stunning creative stats are worth noting. 18 goals/assists one season (2014-15) is a great achievement for a defender, and overall, Willems contributes a goal or an assist every 3.4 games at PSV, which is on a par with some of Liverpool's expensive attacking players.

Moreno is also an effective attacker, but his stats prior to joining Liverpool were nowhere near this impressive. Can Willems defend, though? Compared to Moreno (over the last two years):

* Willems: Superior success % for interceptions, blocks, clearances, and aerial duels.

* Moreno: Superior success % for tackles (Plus slightly better passing accuracy).

Should Liverpool forget Chilwell and prioritise Willems?

Offer Accepted: Liverpool close to agreeing £6m transfer for 'brilliant' international. Transfer Talks this week

After a number of recent departures, it's clear that Liverpool's academy is currently being pruned, and Brad Smith is the latest player to end up on the wrong side of Jurgen Klopp's Anfield shears.

According to ESPN:

"Liverpool have accepted a £6m offer from Bournemouth for Brad Smith, sources from both clubs have told ESPN FC. Smith is set to return to England [for LFC's US Tour] to hold talks with the Cherries".

In March, Harry Redknapp hailed Smith as a 'threat' and predicted that he'd become a 'big player for Liverpool in the future', but at the time, I argued:

"I get the feeling that Smith will go the same way as Teixeira, i.e. constantly on the fringes of the first team before realising that he's wasting his time".

It's been clear for months that Klopp - for whatever reason - doesn't rate Smith, so this comes as absolutely no surprise whatsoever. That said, Smith's marginalisation is hard to understand given his consistently solid performances (when given the chance to play, that is).

What makes Klopp's manifest apathy even more ridiculous is that Smith is deemed to be trustworthy enough to play important World Cup qualifiers for Australia, but is, apparently, not good enough to be a back-up defender for Liverpool.

If given a proper chance, Smith might've been an asset for Liverpool this season, but when all is said and done, it's hard to argue with a £6m fee for an academy player, and I can understand why the Reds have (seemingly) decided to take the money.

Klopp to Sign? Boss confirms 'outstanding' €40m star wanted by Liverpool 'has offers' from the Prem

Earlier this month, Liverpool were linked with a move for Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Axel Witsel, and new developments this weekend suggest that the Belgium international is definitely on the move this summer.

During Euro 2016, Tutto Mercato claimed:

"Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool are interested in signing Alex Witsel, who is currently on €4m a year [€77k-a-week]".

Soon after, Witsel confirmed that he wants to leave Zenit:

"I'd like to play next season in the Premier League or Italy. I hope to move up a level and play in a big European club".

When asked on Saturday about Witsel's future, Zenit boss Mircea Lucescu confirmed:

"He [Witsel] has asked to leave. He has two offers from Italy and two from England".

Could one of these offers be from Liverpool? Jurgen Klopp recently signed Giorgino Wijnaldum, but he is not a positional-specialist like Witsel, who plays most often as a defensive-midfielder (a position Liverpool arguably need to fill).

That said, with Milner, Henderson, Can, Brannagan, Lucas, Allen, and Wijnaldum in the squad, Liverpool are stuffed with multi-functional players capable of operating in central midfield, so perhaps the ship has sailed on this particular deal.

According to his agent, Witsel is worth '€40m', but Zenit's bargaining position is significantly weakened due to Witsel's desire to leave, and the fact he has only one year left on his contract.

Should Liverpool pursue Witsel, or is the club covered in central midfield?

^ Hailed by Belgium boss Marc Wilmots for his 'outstanding' performances at Euro 2016:

Deal Close: 'World-class' striker who wants to work with Klopp agrees massive £78m transfer. Liverpool loss?

In recent months, Liverpool have been heavily linked with a move for 'world-class' Argentine goal machine Gonzalo Higuain, but it looks like the Reds are set to miss out on Serie A's top goalscorer.

According to Sky Sports:

"Higuain has undergone a medical at Juventus and has agreed to join the champions".

ESPN further reports:

"Juventus have agreed to pay Higuain's €94.7m [£78m] release clause [and] he could complete a move as early as the middle of next week".

The size of the fee - which will smash Juve's transfer record - surely means only one thing: Paul Pogba is on the way to Man Utd, and Juventus plan to use the proceeds to fund the Higuain deal.

In May, multiple reports claimed that Higuain was 'interested' in signing for Liverpool wanted to 'play under Jurgen Klopp', but I doubt many Reds fans really believed that LFC were ever seriously in the running.

Higuain grabbed 43 goals/assists last season, but there's no way (IMO) he's worth more than Luis Suarez, who is by far the superior striker. €60m is arguably a reasonable fee for a 28-year old striker with Higuain's stats, but like so many other clubs in Europe, Juve will (if the deal goes through) overpay to get their man.

In my view, Liverpool still need another top class striker, but Klopp appears to be happy with Sturridge, Ings, and Origi as his main options. Mark my words, those three will not cut it - Sturridge will inevitably get injured at some stage (and/or struggle to reproduce his best goalscoring form due to his loss of pace), and Ings/Origi are not prolific enough to propel the club into the Champions League.

That said, Liverpool's squad is filled with attacking midfielders capable of scoring goals (Firmino, Coutinho, Mane, Wijnaldum, Milner etc), so perhaps they'll pick up the goalscoring slack?

Whatever happens, this is probably the last time Liverpool will ever be linked with Higuain.