14 Aug 2016

Liverpool XI vs. Arsenal: 10 players out; 'special' £30m attacker dropped? Surprise start for 'excellent' Origi?

It's finally here! The Premier League returns for Liverpool today, and with Arsenal's defence decimated by injury, the Reds seemingly have a great chance to hit the ground running and get some early, vital points on the board.

Pre-match news:

* According to Arsene Wenger: "Liverpool will come too early for them [Ozil, Giroud and Koscielny]. Gabriel has an ankle problem, and will be out for six to eight weeks".

* Per Mertesacker will also miss the game, as will perennial sicknote Jack Wilshere, who is sidelined with his customary monthly injury.

* Karius, Lucas, Gomez, and Sakho remain injured, and are expected to miss the game.

* Joel Matip, Daniel Sturridge, and Marko Grujic took part in first-team training on Friday, which suggests they're available for inclusion in the squad.

* Jan Molby's view: "I hope Divock Origi^^ [starts]. If he [Klopp] wants Liverpool to get forward quickly and stretch Arsenal then Origi has to be the man".

My preferred line-up:

---------------- Mignolet
Clyne ----- Lovren --- Matip ----- Klavan
------------- Can ----- Hendo
Mane ---------- Wijnaldum ---- Coutinho
--------------- Firmino

Probable Klopp lineup:

-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Lovren - Matip --- Moreno
---- Lallana -- Can -- Wijnaldum
------- Mane ------ Coutinho
------------ Firmino

* Wijnaldum had an average pre-season, but Klopp repeatedly played him out of position, so that's hardly surprising. Play him in the role at which he excelled last season, and Wijnaldum will have a better chance of making an impact.

* I'd rather have Klavan at left-back over Moreno. Klavan is left-footed, and played that position many times for Augsburg. He may not have Moreno's speed, but he more than makes up for that with great positioning, intelligent distribution, and calmness in the tackle (only 5 yellow cards in the last 3 seasons).\

* In my view, Henderson must start the game. When fit, Hendo (arguably) remains Liverpool's most effective central midfielder, and is certainly a better option than Wijnaldum. Leaving him out will undermine his position as captain, and that's not the message to send on the first day of the season.

Whatever the line-up, Arsene Wenger will be forced to field a weakened side, and if Liverpool can capitalise on that, it could be a good day for the Reds. Predicting a 1-1 draw, Mark Lawrenson told the BBC:

"Arsenal fans are already complaining about lack of signings and they are currently short of fit centre-halves. Liverpool have injury problems too and I think both sides would take a point here".

My prediction: 2-2. Or, 3-1 if Liverpool power into the game quickly and get an early goal.

^ Jun 2016: Hailed by Roy Hodgson as a 'special' player. £30m-rated.

^^ Apr 2016: Hailed by Steve McManaman as 'excellent'


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