Liverpool ended last season in disastrous fashion – a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Stoke, a semi-final knock-out in the League Cup to rivals Chelsea, the loss of their captain, speculation over the future of their star player and calls for the manager to get the sack.
As it turns out, Sterling did leave, Brendan Rodgers didn’t lose his job and Jordan Henderson was confirmed as Liverpool’s new captain – and as the cover of FIFA. The Reds will now have to return to the nightmare of last season’s finale much sooner than they hoped – in the first game to be exact.
With many points to prove, Brendan Rodgers and his Southampton squad (plus some new Liverpool players) will be thrown into the deep end next weekend as the 2014-15 season kicks off. But what can we expect from Liverpool? Here’s five things we predict could happen.
A Lovren and Skrtel partnership
If pre-season is anything to go by, Brendan Rodgers has certainly shown his allegiance to the former Southampton centre back over fan-favourite Mamadou Sakho. Dejan Lovren was brought for £20m last summer, but after failing to produce one successful performance for the Merseysiders, he fell out of favour. Rodgers turned to Sakho, the young French defender, to partner Martin Skrtel at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
When it was clear this partnership didn’t work either, Rodgers then reverted to a back three, which admittedly proved more effective for Liverpool. This system was perhaps the best choice due to a lack of quality full-backs – despite the rather bizarre decision to utilise the talented German, Emre Can at right back.
However, since securing the signatures of Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez, Liverpool may have brought themselves some decent full-backs. The two youngsters have performed well during pre-season and Rodgers appears to prefer Lovren and Skrtel as a centre-back partnership.
Lets hope if that is the case, Lovren stays on his feet and Skrtel prevents more goals than he scores.
Jordon Ibe’s rise to stardom
Last season saw the rise of one of Liverpool’s most prized youngsters, Jordon Ibe. Often over-shadowed by the talents of Raheem Sterling, Ibe really started to make a name for himself towards the end of last season.
The dribble and shot which was almost applauded as ‘heroic’ in the Merseyside derby was a sign of things to come from the Englishman, who then went on to produce strong performances every time he was called upon.
And instead of jetting off to Ibiza for the summer, Ibe was pictured at Melwood in the summer with coaching staff, as he claimed ‘he wanted to keep working hard to be better.’
That was a comment which delighted Scousers, who already love the winger after he previously admitted he ‘doesn’t see the point in having an agent’. There’s certainly no danger of Ibe becoming the next Sterling-drama-queen and he could really light up the Premier League next season.
Top four expectations
Chelsea were hailed as ‘one of the best Premier League teams of all time’ after their Championship win last season and they look just as good, if not better this time round. Arsenal also look pretty strong and the addition of Petr Cech in goal certainly adds more fire to the squad. And whilst Arsene Wenger’s in charge, let’s face it, Arsenal always qualify for the Champions League.
So with those two places in the top four seemingly secured by the London clubs, it could be a three-horse race for the final two spots. Manchester United have had arguably one of the best transfer windows and have definitely strengthened their squad. Their blue rivals, Manchester City, haven’t invested quite so well, despite securing the signature of Sterling.
If Liverpool have any chance of making the top four, they’ll need a flawless season to put pressure on City. However, flawless seasons come too far and too few for Rodgers and his team judging by recent campaigns…
One of Liverpool’s most talked about signings was the purchase of Roberto Firmino for around £30m from Hoffenheim – the second highest fee in the club’s transfer history. The Brazilian has bags of talent and flair, and the prospect of him playing alongside 2014 Player of the Season, Philippe Coutinho is exciting to say the least.
The attacking midfielder was quiet for Chile in the Copa America but since his arrival at Liverpool, he’s shown glimpses of what he could produce in the Premier League this season.
Some doubt whether he’ll make any impact at all but with two Brazilians in your team, who knows what could happen? We expect Rodgers to plan his attacking formation around the pairing of the two – giving them freedom and the ability to link together. No matter what happens, it’ll be exciting to see how Firmino will do at Liverpool this season.
Europa League distraction?
Missing out on the top four and still qualifying for the Europa League is often seen as a bad thing. It’s a ‘distraction’ and adds further fixtures to an already busy Premier League schedule.
For other teams it may be a realistic chance of securing a Champions League spot if they can win the tournament. Liverpool definitely wouldn’t be favourites though, so it’s probably more of a distraction if anything.
Rodgers struggled heavily last season to rotate his squad and we expect the pressure to be too much for him again this time around. It would probably do Liverpool a favour to not qualify past the group stages, and allow them to focus wholly on claiming a top four place.