9 Aug 2015

LFC Lineup vs. Stoke: £61m-duo out? Big defensive mistake? Surprise start for Gomez

On Sunday, the Reds return to the scene of one of the most heinous crimes in Liverpool FC's history, and after spending close to £80m over the summer, LFC boss Brendan Rodgers has no choice but to deliver the goods. Defeat on the first days of the season is unthinkable, and if Liverpool are to have any chance this season of sustaining a genuine challenge for the top four, then getting off to a flying start is arguable essential.

Team News:

* Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen, and Jon Flanagan all remain on the sidelines recovering from injury (with Allen out for '3-4 weeks).

* On Friday, Rodgers confirmed that all the club's summer signings will be 'in the squad' for the Stoke game.

* Also on Friday, Roberto Firmino insisted that he 'can’t wait to play' his 'first Premier League game' for Liverpool, but he also admitted that he 'got a bit tired in the second half' of the Swindon game, so he's probably unlikely to start against Stoke.

As I see it, Rodgers has four major issues to consider:

* Benteke: Should he start? The answer has to be a resounding YES. You don't spend £32m on a striker and then leave him on the bench for the first game of the season. Start the Belgian, and if he gets tired, replace him in the second half. It's that simple. In my view, there's no excuse to leave Benteke on the bench, especially since he had some pre-season preparation at Villa before signing for LFC. He must start.

* Central Defence: This is a no-brainer. It should be Skrtel-Sakho, as both have proven to be Liverpool's best defenders. Lovren struggled in pre-season, and if he can't put in commanding performances against part-timers, then he's clearly not (yet) ready to shoulder the responsibility of the Premier League. If Lovren starts over Sakho, it will be a mistake.

* Central Midfield: There's no point speculating - Henderson and Milner will start in the centre. The question is, will Rodgers play a dedicated DM, or will he rely on Milner/Hendo to do the job between them? Until Liverpool have a settled, effective defence, a DM is (arguably) essential, and for me, it should be Lucas. Emre Can is not a DM, and as argued in an earlier article, he doesn't have the positional discipline of the experience to play in that role.

* Left-Back: Joe Gomez or Alberto Moreno? If Rodgers is planning to keep the Moreno, then he needs to show some faith by starting him against Stoke. The Spaniard had a 'mare during the 6-1 hammering back in May, and got subbed-off at half-time, and he'll be desperate to make amends. If, however, the manager chooses Gomez instead (who he recently hailed as 'outstanding' - this may demotivate Moreno, and force him closer to the exit door. Of course, if Rodgers' plans to get rid of Moreno anyway, then it's not an issue.

* Firmino: On Friday, Firmino admitted that he found it tough to maintain fitness during last week's pre-season friendly with Swindon, so Rodgers may be planning to start him on the bench. In my view, though, Firmino should start. Again, as with Benteke, if he tires, simply sub him off in the second half.

My team for tomorrow:

----------------- Mignolet

Clyne ----- Skrtel ---- Sakho ------ Moreno

----------------- Lucas

------------ Milner - Hendo

--------- Coutinho -- Firmino

--------------- Benteke


Team that Rodgers will probably go with:

----------------- Mignolet

Clyne ----- Skrtel ---- Sakho ------ Gomez

----------------- Can

------------ Milner - Hendo

--------- Coutinho -- Lallana

--------------- Benteke

Predicting a 1-1 draw, Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson told the BBC:

"My biggest concern is [Liverpool] might be undercooked because of how the standard of opposition in [pre-season]. you can forget a repeat of the 6-1 scoreline. This is going to be a much cagier encounter".

After a great pre-season, I really hope to see Joao Carloss Teixeira on the bench.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

Starting this season, I'll be running a prediction league on the site:

* For every game, I'll post a pre-match preview as normal containing my prediction for the result.

* To take part, simply post with your prediction for the game in the comment section of the preview article.

* I'll keep a points-based league table for the whole season, roughly based on Lawro's prediction league on the BBC (I'll post the details ASAP)

* At the end of each season, the winner will receive a prize (yet to be determined).

* Deadline for predictions is 5 minutes before the game kicks off. So, for Stoke, the deadline is 3.55pm (GMT).

* No editing posts after the game! I can see this, so I'll know ;-)

Good luck!

My prediction: 2-2

Author: Jaimie K



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