The start of the English Premier League season is right around the corner for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool. Before they open the season with a game at Stoke City on August 9, the Reds still have two more pre-season matches to complete. Because the team plays those matches on consecutive days, Rodgers may opt to field two completely different starting 11s.
The first of the two, against Finland’s HJK Helsinki may be used as an opportunity to get some of the new players used to playing with their new teammates and it may also be the first match of both Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho, who were given extra days off after participating in summer competitions. Since HJK Helsinki is in the middle of their season, added to the fact that they have won six consecutive Finnish League titles, Liverpool’s lineup could resemble one that will take the field on opening day.
Simon Mignolet should return to the team after sitting out the last match. While the opponents aren’t exactly top quality, Mignolet will still need to be at his best against players such as Demba Savage, Atomu Tanaka and Erfan Zeneli.
Nathaniel Clyne still has not shown his best form so far this pre-season, but that may finally change this weekend. Since he does not have any immediate competition for the spot on the squad, there has been no true urgency in reaching peak form. Hopefully Rodgers will get on his case and force him to be motivated.
The partnership between Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho may be the one that Rodgers decides is his favorite and they could really get their feet wet against Helsinki. The other pre-season matches have been easy for any defender since the opponents have been weak. The competition in this weekend’s first match have at least competed in the Europa League.
Alberto Moreno has been outshone so far by Joe Gomez this summer but the position is the speedy Spaniard’s to lose. With a stronger midfield to shield the defense, Moreno should be able to provide some width to the Liverpool attack.
Now that the squad is complete, the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and James Milner may finally be able to play together. Even though it is not the most technically sound midfield, all three are extremely hard working and are able to create chances on their own.
They should be able to implement the pressing system that Rodgers has implemented during the summer and if done well, the opponents will have no space to operate.
The young Jordon Ibe has been one of the more impressive players during the pre-season and he should continue that form this weekend. His speed, dribbling ability and strength makes him a terror for any defender to deal with.
This could be Christian Benteke’s first game in a Liverpool uniform and it comes at a perfect time, given that he should be able to get more than a few chances to score. It will be interesting to see how the wingers will work with the big Belgian, Rodgers didn’t really make his wingers fire crosses into the box at a high rate in the past. Will it change now that the team has somebody who can take advantage of it?
Philippe Coutinho could also return to the side after being a part of the Brazil squad that participated in the Copa America. Even though playing on the wing is not the best use of his abilities, he will likely be relegated there unless Rodgers decides to use a diamond midfield. Nonetheless, Coutinho’s creativity and wizardry on the ball should create a lot of chances for the rest of his teammates.
Via – Lineup Builder