Reds Host Reigning Champions Leicester In First Home Game of the Season
After the agony of waiting during the international break, the Premier League is finally back for another thrilling round of action. Liverpool will unveil their newly renovated main stand for the first time against Leicester City in what should be an exciting game of football.
The Reds will be without Ragnar Klaven and Emre Can through respective knee and ankle injuries, whilst the trio of Loris Karius, Joe Gomez and Sheyi Ojo continue to be sidelined. Encouragingly, Karius has resumed training, but the game against the Foxes will likely come too soon for him to make his debut. Despite receiving a knock for Senegal over the international break, Sadio Mane trained normally and is expected to start out wide. Mamadou Sakho meanwhile appears to be fit, but Jurgen Klopp’s relationship the player is well documented to be shaky at best. However Klopp hinted this week that Sakho could feature this season as Klopp, in his own words, “is not silly enough to forget good performances.” It is clear though that he’ll need to get his fitness up, perhaps in cup games and the Premier League 2 with the u23s before he can be considered for a regular starting spot.
Simon Mignolet will almost certainly retain his place for now, at least until Karius has had more time to train after his absence through a broken hand. The back four should also remain unchanged, although Alberto Moreno is an outside chance of starting in place of James Milner at left back. Can’s injury will see Jordan Henderson continue in a holding role, ahead of Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana. The front three are more difficult to predict, although after a grueling international break for Philippe Coutinho it is not unreasonable to think that he may be rested. If this happens then Daniel Sturridge will lead the line, supported by Roberto Firmino and Mane, with Coutinho likely to feature from the bench. However if Klopp deems him to be fit and ready to start the game then he could replace Wijnaldum in a 4-2-3-1 with Coutinho, Firmino, Mane and Sturridge ahead of Henderson and Lallana. Divock Origi is another player who will be in the mix as a potential starter, if not, expect to see him subbed on at some point for one of the tiring international stars.
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri will be free to select almost anyone from his squad for the game at Anfield. The only absences will be Jefferey Schlupp and Nampalys Mendy, who are a week or so away from returning from respective ankle and muscle injuries. Kasper Schmeichel has returned from a minor hernia operation, but despite being fit, it’s unclear whether he will feature against the Reds or not.
Despite returning from an operation, as previously stated, Schmeichel will likely start, although Ron-Robert Zieler is an excellent replacement if Ranieri decides to give the Dane some extra time off to recover. The back four of Danny Simpson, Robert Huth, Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs will almost certainly remain unchanged, likewise Marc Albrighton, Daniel Amartey, Danny Drinkwater and the dangerous Riyad Mahrez should also retain their places in the starting lineup. Andy King and Demarai Gray are also options in the midfield that Ranieri could opt to start. Shinji Okazaki could also start after playing behind the ever-present Jamie Vardy against Swansea City. However, it is equally possible that speedster Ahmed Musa could return to the starting lineup, whilst club-record signing Islam Slimani could also start alongside Vardy. After little time to prepare for the game and train with his new teammates though, he is unlikely to start, but will be a dangerous option from the bench.
Liverpool have had some mixed results this season, but will be looking to buck the trend of previous seasons by returning from the international break raring to go. The players and fans alike will be hoping for a win at Anfield after having waited three rounds to finally host a home game. Leicester, as they displayed last season will not be an easy game though, and the Reds will have to be close to their best to take three points from the game. Liverpool will hope that the speed of Mane will be able to link up effectively with the skill of Firmino and Sturridge, leading to a few goals and a win. The brunt of the pressure and expectation will however fall on the shoulders of the defence and midfield who need to step up their game against a dangerous Leicester outfit. The key battle will naturally be how well Huth and Morgan can deal with Liverpool’s potent trio, some assistance from the likes of Fuchs, Simpson and Drinkwater will certainly be necessary. If Liverpool are going to win though, a good performance from the defence and midfield is imperative.
Leicester will be hungry to prove to their fans and to the Premier League in general that they are not ‘one season wonders’ by getting a positive result at Anfield. After a disappointing loss to Hull, they were able to battle to a draw against Arsenal and sneak a win away at Swansea. Despite improving, the games against Arsenal and Swansea were far from impressive, but a good performance against the Reds will serve them well in their attempt to kick-start their season. The likes of Okazaki and Mahrez will be looking to exploit the Reds’ backline to feed Vardy, whilst Drinkwater and Amartey will attempt to impose themselves against an arguably weaker Liverpool midfield. The key battle will of course be if Milner can keep Mahrez quiet, and if Lovren and Matip are able to track Vardy’s penetrating runs.
This game will be one of the most intriguing and difficult to predict matches of the round. Both teams naturally like to counter attack, however it is likely that Leicester will allow Liverpool plenty of possession at home, absorbing pressure for long stretches of the game until Liverpool overextend. If they can win the ball back in these kinds of situations, Liverpool’s midfield and defence will be hard pressed to deal with the Foxes’ danger men in Mahrez and Vardy. However I am predicting a 2-1 win for the Reds in their firs home game of the season, with goals coming from Sturridge and Mane.
Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 09/09/2016.