2018-19 EPL Match Day 8 Preview — Liverpool (6-1-0) vs. Manchester City (6-1-0)

The cauldron that is Anfield burned Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in their Champions League quarterfinal tie last April, leaving the biggest blot on their historically unprecedented season of Premier League dominance.

The reigning champions return to Liverpool on Sunday, perhaps at full strength, as they look to exorcise the demons their closest pursuers have unleashed upon them in recent matchups.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

“We won the last three games against City – twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club’s official website.

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team – which I have, thank God – with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

Both teams have taken 19 of a possible 21 points through their first seven matches, with City leading on goal difference. Though third-place Chelsea have been surprising interlopers early, Guardiola’s Citizens and Klopp’s Reds have given every indication they will be the last two standing to lift the Premier League trophy come May.

And head-to-head, Liverpool have had the upper hand of late. The Reds dealt City three of their seven losses across all competitions last season, including a 4-3 victory at Anfield that was also Guardiola’s first league loss. But the other two also stand out, as Liverpool advancing 5-1 on aggregate was a key part of their runners-up finish to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

The first leg, also played at Anfield, was everything about the heritage Liverpool have as five-time European champions and everything Manchester City desire by claiming “Ol’ Big Ears” for the first time to validate the estimated £1.3 billion in player signings since Sheikh Mansour bought the team a decade ago.

The white-hot intensity started before City even arrived on the grounds as their coach was pelted by Liverpool supporters en route. Guardiola then made two of the few – but most certainly his biggest since his arrival — mistakes in tactics and lineups as he left ex-Liverpool attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling on the bench for deep-lying Ilkay Gundogan and started a still untested Aymeric Laporte at left back with Reds striker Mohamed Salah ready to pounce.

Liverpool blazed a trail of carnage through City’s half as Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane all scored in the first 31 minutes, and they protected the 3-0 scoreline. City were unable to overturn the deficit the following week at the Etihad, losing 2-1, and were left to take out their frustrations on the Premier League – their sole consolation reaching 100 points in their final match.

Since that meeting, Liverpool have only gotten stronger by taking a page from City’s playbook and spending lavishly the last two seasons. Alisson has been worth every bit the £56 million from AS Roma, while the patience of waiting a year for midfielder Naby Keita has also paid dividends.

Virgil van Dijk has been a towering presence in central defence since his January arrival for £75 million, and while Klopp has brought along £44 million signing Fabinho slowly, all the pieces are in place for Liverpool to win their first title since 1990.

Just don’t expect them to say they will continue dominating Manchester City while trying to do it.

“It’s a new season,” left back Andy Robertson said. “Last season we did very well against them. The two quarter-finals were very good, especially at home when we went 3-0 up. We did get one over on them last season but they ended up with the Premier League and that’s what everyone strives for.

“They are the champions and they’ll have a game plan. But hopefully our game plan is better on the day.”

The plan will certainly need to be better than the one Wednesday, when Liverpool had a true clunker and lost 1-0 in Champions League play at Italian side Napoli. In contrast to the loss and draw, respectively, last week versus Chelsea in which both high-quality matches turned on moments of individual brilliance, Klopp’s team were lacklustre throughout and failed to register a shot on target before conceding in the 90th minute.

The loss again raised concerns about Salah’s form as the Egypt international has gone four matches without a goal in all competitions. He has only three goals in 10 matches, but with goals in all three wins over City last season, Klopp is optimistic the goals will flow soon.

“I am completely relaxed,” the German said. “I didn’t say Mo should relax because he has to work hard, but that’s what he is doing. It is a completely normal situation, nothing to worry about and I am relaxed about it.”

Liverpool have conceded just three goals in league play and have not been scored upon in Anfield since February, a stretch of 751 minutes.

City, though, may have all hands on deck to break that run as attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and left back Benjamin Mendy practised this week. De Bruyne, who had 12 goals and 20 assists in all competitions last season, has been sidelined with a knee injury suffered in practice after City’s season-opening victory. Mendy has missed the last six games with a knee injury after registering four assists in the first four matches.

Guardiola’s team have won four on the bounce since their surprising home loss to Lyon to open Champions League group play, and they scrambled to rally past Hoffenheim 2-1 on Tuesday. David Silva bagged the winner on 87 minutes, but Sergio Aguero’s equaliser in the eighth was also vital as City conceded almost right after kickoff.

Guardiola, though, thinks his defence will be key to maintaining their unbeaten start in the Premier League, which makes sense considering Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino accounted for seven of the nine Liverpool goals last term.

“The big difference is how many times you lose the ball,” the Spaniard noted to City’s official website. “In Champions League games, they didn’t lose the ball. These guys are so dangerous and connect between them – Mane and Salah love running behind and they do it really well.

“We have to defend, but not in the approach play because it’s boring and we have to be ourselves. In this type of game, we must be ourselves. They are good and even though we are City and a good team, they also do many good things. To minimise those three players on Sunday, we have to attack and be as good as possible.”

Aguero has a team-high six goals, with three coming in the last four matches. Both Sterling and Leroy Sane have used their pace to terrorise opposing defenders on the flanks, combining for a goal and six assists in that stretch. City lead the Premier League with 21 goals – six more than Liverpool — but also have matched the Reds with just three conceded and carry a 330-minute shutout streak in league play dating back to their 2-1 victory over Newcastle United on Sept. 1.

Anfield, though, has been a house of horrours for Manchester City, who have failed to record a clean sheet there in the Premier League era. They have lost six on the bounce in all competitions and are winless in their last 15 league visits (0-4-11). City’s lone victory in 23 trips to Liverpool (1-6-16) in the Premier League era was a 2-1 victory in 2003 when Nicolas Anelka completed a brace in the 94th minute.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are slight favourites at 29/20 odds, while the reigning champions are 17/10 underdogs to bring all three points back to the blue side of Manchester and grab sole possession of first. The odds of the teams moving together to 20 points into the international break are 5/2.

Befitting the quality of these two sides, there is little separating them in terms of odds. A Liverpool win with more than 2.5 goals is the top choice at 12/5, closely followed by a City win over 2.5 (14/5). There is also respect for both teams’ defences, as a 0-0 or 1-1 draw is pulling down 21/5 odds, shorter than a low-scoring Liverpool victory (11/2) or a Man City one (13/2).

Despite his recent drough, Salah is still the top choice to score the first goal of the match at 4/1, though Aguero is riding hot on his heels at 9/2. A pair of understudy forwards — Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool and Gabriel Jesus for City — are second at 11/2, while Sterling, Firmino and Mane ate all 13/2. Two more expected reserves — City’s Riyad Mahrez and Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri are 7/1 and 8/1, respectively, while Sane could be a sleeper pick at 9/1 for the first goal.

Salah (5/4) and Aguero (13/10) also lead the way to find the back of the net over the 90 minutes, while Sturridge and Jesus are the only other players with shorter than 2/1 odds to score at 17/10. Sterling, Firmino and Mane are at the aforementioned 2/1, with Mahrez just off the trio at 21/10. Though he has practised this week, De Bruyne was not on the board for scoring in the 90 minutes as of late Friday night Chicago time.

PREDICTION

There are so many directions to break down this match, from how the four wide backs are going to stop the opposing attacks, to De Bruyne and Mendy’s potential retrun (This space believes Mendy will start at left back and De Bruyne will be among the reseves) to potentially Dejan Lovren and van Dijk being paired in central defence for the first time this season (This space believes it will happen) to who Guardiola selects in midfield along with Fernandinho and David Silva (Gundogan is the frontrunner, edging out Bernardo Silva) to whether Keita is healthy enough to play (yes) to even whether Klopp puts Fabinho among his reserves or even starts him over Keita.

And exhale.

If there was one surprise that came out of Liverpool’s last three matches, it was not the lack of victory — that happens to every team at some point — but the fact Liverpool looked tired against Naples. The Reds deserved to lose that match, but not because they were looking ahead to this one. They were simply second-best.

On the other side, Guardiola seems to have come to grips with the fact City cannot match the numbers they put up last season in recording 100 points in the Premier League and winning 32 matches and losing only two. Yet their Champions League struggles in a group they were supposed to run roughshod on has been puzzling. Whether it’s City playing down to Lyon and Hoffenheim or the two sides playing above themselves and making City graft, this is the match where the Citizens could be found out if they do not get stuck in from kickoff.

The place where City can win this match is in the midfield by holding possession. Guardiola was absolutely correct in saying Liverpool did not lose the ball in that first-leg Champions League tie, but one of Klopp’s strategies was to let City have the ball because Liverpool’s midfield is not creative on the ball. That is hidden by the high press into forcing opponents into mistakes, where the transition relies on fewer passes and more pace to create scoring opportunities.

Another facet of their game City would be well-served to utilise is Ederson’s long-range distribution. There are few — as in, count on one hand — who can deliver pinpoint sidewinders covering more than half the pitch like the Brasil international, and even if City lose possession on the first ball or the second ball, Ederson can send that initial long-range kick to areas of minimal danger if Liverpool do recover possession.

The slight public chafe Guardiola has had about Liverpool having City’s number last term probably is far greater in private because that’s who he is, a relentless perfectionist. He has achieved one of the things he set out to do when he arrived on the blue side of this city three seasons ago and evolved English football from blood and thunder to something a little more graceful.

Not that City lack the steel to go with their silk — Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho are a formidable spine, and Stones is getting up to speed in that regard — but the Citizens are still the reigning champions and Guardiola’s hunger to be European champions en route to another title is a strong galvanising force.

Liverpool may have found that matching steel with Alisson and van Dijk, and it will be curious to see if Klopp trusts Lovren in such a big spot with only 90 minutes of football under his belt. Gomez has rarely put a wrong foot forward in central defence, but City are unlike few sides in the world, and having two of Europe’s best central defenders available means you use two of Europe’s best central defenders.

If Liverpool are able to keep their offensive thrust narrow through Mane, Firmino and Salah, there is a strong likelihood they will continue their winning ways at Anfield and extend City’s misery. But if City can ping the ball wide to either Sane or Sterling to let them attack Liverpool’s wide backs and stretch that back four, then the reigning champions could finally come through with three points and an end to the hoodoo at the Kop.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LIVERPOOL 2, Manchester City 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 8 PREVIEWS:

Watford (4-1-2) vs. Bournemouth (4-1-2)
Leicester City (4-0-3) vs. Everton (2-3-2)
Manchester United (3-1-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-2-5)
Fulham (1-2-4) vs. Arsenal (5-0-2)

Champions League Match Day 1 preview — Liverpool vs. Paris-Saint Germain

It is not about who scores the goals for Liverpool and Paris-Saint Germain in their Champions League opener at Anfield on Tuesday, but rather, which side will be able to stop the other from scoring that will determine who gets an early foothold in Group C.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

No one is questioning the credentials of either club’s offence. Liverpool have amassed the maximum 15 points through their first five Premier League matches, trailing Chelsea on the slimmest of goal difference after bagging 11 goals through those contests.

Last season’s Champions League runners-up boast a potent trident strike force in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, and the trio have accounted for eight of those goals. Firmino scored in both of Liverpool’s last two contests, though he was an injury concern after suffering an eye injury in an awkward clash with Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen in their 2-1 victory last time out.

Manager Jurgen Klopp is eager to use that win as a springboard into this contest given it was Liverpool’s first match against one of the elites in the Premier League, and the higher tempo and quality served as a reminder of the demands of European football.

“It was different to all the other games obviously, because Tottenham is a different team so we had to do that, but that was actually always one of our biggest strengths so we did pretty well.” Klopp said at Monday’s news conference. “If we could do better that would be really cool, because probably we need to.

“But the Champions League is there to face teams like that. … Everyone knows where Paris is, obviously, and everyone knows about their power on the pitch so it’s a challenge – but I’m really looking forward to it.”

While Liverpool fortified themselves in the offseason with the additions of Alisson between the sticks, Naby Keita’s long-awaited arrival from Leipzig and Xherdan Shaqiri’s depth in attack beyond the trio, midfielder Fabinho continues to be the odd man out. The £39 million signing from Monaco has yet to appear in a match for the Reds and was among the reserves just twice in their first five contests.

Of the three midfielders Klopp is expected to start among Keita, Jordan Henderson and James Milner, Henderson may be the most likely of the three to be subbed out at some point given he is still recovering from England’s run to the World Cup semifinals. Still, he is eager to start the journey back to the Champions League final and take that last step to lift “Old Big Ears.”

“I think last season was obviously a good step in the right direction, but at the end of the day we didn’t win anything,” he told the club’s official website.

“So there’s a lot of room for improvement and this season we want to make that step closer and try and get some silverware because ultimately that’s what we’re here to try to do: be the best team in England and in Europe as well. We’ve got to keep winning games.”

But while it is go, go, go on offence for Liverpool, Alisson has made an immediate impact at the back. The Reds have conceded just two goals in their five matches, with Alisson directly responsible for one with a howler of a dribbling move. Virgil van Dijk has been massive in central defence, surprisingly augmented there by Joe Gomez while Dejan Lovren continues to recover from an abdominal injury and his run to the World Cup final with Croatia.

Yet they are in for a stern challenge in Paris-Saint Germain, who boast a wealth of attacking options themselves in burgeoning superstar and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe along with Brasil ace Neymar and fellow South Americans Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria.

The quartet have taken well to new manager Thomas Tuchel, with Les Parisiens also sporting the maximum 15 points through their first five matches in domestic play. PSG have racked up an impressive 17 goals, 13 through their four-man attack force in the German’s 4-2-3-1 set-up.

This match also serves as an early referendum on Klopp’s successor at Borussia Dortmund. Tuchel took over PSG after a one-season coaching sabbatical, replacing Unai Emery after he failed to get beyond the Champions League quarterfinals in each of his two seasons in Paris. Domestic domination with Le Rouge-et-Bleu is a given as they have done the treble four consecutive seasons running, the mandate is European success come hell or high water.

“Paris have gone very close to making the quarter-finals in the last two years,” Tuchel noted in his Monday news conference. “Sometimes people say a lot of things to try to explain and find reasons for every single little event and everything that happens… but maybe sometimes you just need a special win to get the confidence to go a long way in a competition.

“In my opinion, if you want to go a long way, you have to have the experience that you can do something special. It makes our challenge even bigger. Liverpool have won the Champions League five times, they have that experience, this stadium has that experience.”

One player whose experience would be welcome in this game but is unavailable is goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The old lion is serving a three-match ban for his comments following his loss to Real Madrid in last spring’s semifinal loss while with Juventus. PSG central midfielder Marco Verratti is also out for this match after being sent off in their round of 16 loss to Real last season.

PSG keeper Alphonse Areola turned in his first clean sheet in domestic play last weekend in their 4-0 romp past Saint-Etienne, continuing his fine play for France as he deputised for the injured Hugo Lloris in Nations League play. Areola posted a shutout in a draw against Germany and conceded once in a victory over the Netherlands during the international break.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are solid 21/20 favourites to open group play with a victory, while PSG are 11/5 underdogs to take all three points back across the channel. The odds of the team’s splitting points are 27/10.

For those who expect a goal-fest, or at least three or more, a Liverpool win over 2.5 goals is getting 7/4 odds, while one for PSG returns 10/3. A 2-2 draw would bring back a 7/1 return on such an investment. For those thinking the defence and keepers will step to the forefront, a draw under 2.5 goals is the oddsmakers choice at 24/5, followed by a Liverpool win (11/2) and a PSG victory (17/2).

For first goal-scorers, Salah is a clear favourite at 16/5, surprisingly followed by Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge at 5/1. Cavani lurks just behind the England international as Les Parisiens’ top option at 11/2, with Mbappe and Firmino returning 6/1 odds if they make it 1-0.

Salah is the only striker with better than even money odds to score during the match at 10/11, with both Cavani and Neymar checking in at 17/10. Just behind the PSG duo are Mbappe and Liverpool counterpart Mane at 9/5.

PREDICTION

One of the things that stands out about this match is the contrast in attack. Liverpool likely will go through the middle of the pitch with Milner and Keita to challenge Andre Rabiot and Lassana Diarra while exploiting Verratti’s absence, while PSG will look to unleash Mbappe down the right side of the pitch to pin back Robertson.

On the other flank, Di Maria can use his wiles against Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is still learning his way on the job against higher-end competition and also has accrued three yellow cards in his first five Premier League matches.

To a degree, Alisson will be in the spotlight for Liverpool as the focal point of compare and contrast given how last season’s Champions League ended with Loris Karius’ nightmarish final. The Brasil international definitely has a swagger to him, and for Liverpool fans, they can only hope he sticks to shot-stopping first and dribbling second.

Areola presents an intriguing counterpart given PSG brought Buffon on board to be one of the players who get them over the hump in Champions League. This is PSG’s seventh consecutive appearance, with the previous six ending in the quarterfinals or round of 16. The offensive talent is unquestionably there, it’s whether the defence and the goalkeeping can shine equally.

Possession and pace will be keys in this game. If Liverpool can force turnovers in the middle of the park and PSG’s half of the pitch, they will create scoring opportunities. If Rabiot and Diarra can link to Neymar on quick passes through the middle to set up runs by Mbappe and Di Maria, the Ligue 1 side will find success.

Cavani can also be a difference maker with his nous in the box, and Gomez will have to be up the challenge on a quick turnaround after helping van Dijk do a solid job in containing another world-class striker in Harry Kane in their most recent game.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 3, Paris-Saint Germain 2.

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-1) vs. Liverpool (4-0-0)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

They are sides cut from different clothes seeking a similar end game: A Premier League title and with a little bit of luck, Champions League glory.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur kick off the fifth match day Saturday at Wembley Stadium in a mouth-watering clash of top-five sides set to embark on their respective European adventures.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Reds (4-0-0) are atop the table on the maximum 12 points, ahead of resurgent Chelsea and surprise package Watford on goal difference. Their run to the Champions League final last spring emboldened the franchise to end a silverware drought now in its seventh season since winning the 2012 League Cup as they spent the summer spending the kitty from Philippe Coutinho’s sale to Barcelona.

The primary goal was to find a goalkeeper with the mental fortitude to go with the elite physical shot-stopping skills needed to challenge the league and continent’s best clubs. The other was finding players to fit Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing style.

Both have meshed well as Liverpool have conceded once thus far, and that goal was a howler by their £65 million man between the sticks – Alisson. The Brasil international may be too confident with the ball at his feet, as he was caught out trying to dribble around Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who dispossessed him and set up the goal that made that 2-1 victory a fortnight ago more nerve-wracking than needed.

It may be the only blemish for a Liverpool team which boasts a lethal attack in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The trio have accounted for seven of the team’s nine goals, and Mane is joint-leader in the Premier League on four with Fulham’s Aleksander Mitrovic.

Heading into a Champions League group that has a staggering amount of firepower in France’s Paris-Saint Germain, paced by Alisson’s compatriot Neymar and France starlet Kylian Mbappe, and Italy’s Napoli boasting scorers and playmakers in Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insgine and Marek Hamsik, both attack and defence – along with depth – are going to be needed for the Reds to have the kind of season they envisioned with their aggressive summer spending spree.

“I’m looking forward to the game against Tottenham, especially now because in the next few weeks we have a lot of games, a lot of good games, difficult games,” forward Xherdan Shaqiri told Sky Sports, fully expecting to see more playing time than the 27 minutes he has logged thus far as Liverpool begin chasing titles on three fronts when including the Carabao Cup. “But we will try to keep our good performances and I hope we can win a lot of games.

“We train hard every day. You can see that there is a lot of quality in our team and we are hard-working every day. And competition in football is also good for the players.”

Klopp made only one change to his XI over the last four games, and that was introducing Jordan Henderson into the midfield after 2017 signing and newcomer Naby Keita started the first three matches while the England international rested following World Cup duties. The biggest outfield signing Liverpool made this summer – midfielder Fabinho at a £39 million price tag – has yet to play a single minute, but that is expected to change in either this game or Wednesday’s Champions League opener versus PSG.

“My start has been good and the adaptation good. The pre-season was very good, we had nine friendlies and I played nine,” Fabinho told Globo Esporte.

“It was good to play against English teams to see what the rhythm, the intensity and the physique is like. I am adapting to the team’s style of play. The more experienced players have helped me, the technical team as well.”

Dejan Lovren remains the lone injury absence as Liverpool are not rushing the Croatia international to return from an abdominal injury. Joe Gomez is expected to continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk in central defence, with Joel Matip also available.

Tottenham (3-0-1) have taken a pair of large injury hits which again calls their decision not to reinforce the squad during the summer window into question. While Liverpool spent, Spurs scrimped – they were the first side in Premier League history not to spend money in the summer window since it came to be.

As they impatiently wait to move into their new version of White Hart Lane – this was supposed to be the first match in their new digs — Tottenham believe their core is enough to bring them to new heights in Europe in a demanding group with perennials Barcelona, Italian side Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands and challenge at home for their first league title since 1961.

Striker and World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane netted two goals and an assist in the first four matches, and Lucas Moura has made a full adjustment to life with the Spurs after his January arrival and paces the side with three goals. Kane and England compatriot Kieran Trippier were also shortlisted for the FIFA FIFpro World XI.

Spurs had their 100 percent start end in surprising fashion at Watford before the international break. The upstart Hornets, who are third in the table with the maximum 12 points, rallied and struck twice in a seven-minute span against backup keeper Michael Vorm as he deputised for injured No. 1 Hugo Lloris.

Vorm is going to be between the sticks for the foreseeable future, as Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino announced Thursday that Lloris would miss “several weeks” with a thigh injury suffered in their win over Manchester United on Aug. 27 that also caused the World Cup winner to miss France’s first two Nations League matches.

Spurs will also be without attacking midfielder Dele Alli due to a hamstring injury suffered while with England on international duty. It is also likely to sideline him for Tottenham’s Champions League opener at Inter Milan on Tuesday. Pochettino will likely choose between Erik Lamela and Harry Winks to fill that spot.

They do get back forward Heung-Min Son, who missed the previous three matches helping South Korea win the gold medal in the Asian Games. The title also earned Son, who assisted on both goals in the 2-1 win over Japan in extra time, an exemption from the 21-month compulsory military service all South Korean males must do before the age of 28.

The Lilywhites ended a 10-match winless spell (0-3-7) to Liverpool in all competitions with an emphatic 4-1 thrashing in last season’s corresponding fixture. Kane and Son scored in the first 12 minutes, and after Salah pulled one back before the half-hour, Alli restored the two-goal lead in first-half stoppage time before Kane completed a brace on 56 minutes.

Kane, who also had a match-tying penalty in the 2-2 draw at Anfield in February, has five goals and two assists in seven league matches versus Liverpool. Salah accounted for all three goals for the Reds against the north London side last term.

PUNTER’S NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are slight 5/4 favourites, while Tottenham check in at 19/10. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 5/2. In terms of the 2.5 goals over/under benchmark, Liverpool are 9/4 favourites with the over, and Spurs are 13/4. The intrigue also comes for those who believe this will be a goal-fest, as a Liverpool win and over 3.5 goals gets a 9/2 return, while a Spurs win over 3.5 goals is listed at 13/2 odds. The odds of a 2-2 draw is 8/1 for both 2.5 and 3.5 goals.

For first goal-scorers, Kane and Salah are joint leaders, as expected, with 7/2 odds. Despite his recent form, Moura is 15/2, behind the Liverpool tandem of Firmino and Mane, who are both 13/2. One of the more intriguing “GetAPrice” picks is Salah at 6/1 odds to get a goal and an assist in this match.

PREDICTION

Though Liverpool have not shown the rampant form of their lid-lifting 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in their other three victories, they have gotten the job done as evidenced by their 100 percent record. Everything has gone status quo for Klopp, and with both Lloris and Alli absent for Spurs, there is a better-than-average chance it will continue at Wembley.

It will be interesting to see who replaces Alli, with the most likely option Winks with a lesser likelihood of Son, who played eight games in 26 days for South Korea. Son feels like a more likely option for the final half-hour than the first hour. This will be a big game for Moussa Dembele, who gets the unenviable task of trying to stop Liverpool’s build-up through the midfield and the linkup from Milner and company to the Salah-Firmino-Mane strike force.

The “Kane is tired” trope has been trotted out ahead of this match, which seems counterintuititve since the Spurs striker did end his August goal-scoring blues in league play already and also was held out of England’s friendly versus Switzerland. But it is another chance for Gomez to shine in Liverpool’s defence. In the end, this will be another match Liverpool grind more than glide through, and a late second when Spurs hunt for an equaliser would not be surprising.

Predicted Final Score: Tottenham Hotspur 0, LIVERPOOL 2

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Watford vs. Manchester United
Everton vs. West Ham United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 Preview — Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)

Worth every bit the £65 million transfer thus far, Alisson looks to record a fourth clean sheet in as many Premier League matches as Liverpool put their 100 percent mark on the line Saturday at King Power Stadium against Leicester City.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The one position where Jurgen Klopp clearly needed an upgrade despite Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, Alisson became more of a need than a want when previous No. 1 Loris Karius made two of the biggest mistakes of his professional life on in that 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid.

Liverpool (3-0-0) were fortunate Alisson and Brasil made a quarterfinal exit at the World Cup since it did not drive AS Roma’s already exorbitant price tag higher. Still flush with cash following the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona the previous winter, the Reds had no trouble spending a then-record fee for their new No. 1.

Alisson’s presence has given Liverpool the freedom from asking their keeper to not lose a match and also trusting the Brasil international to occasionally win them one. That moment came versus Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend, when Alisson preserved a 1-0 victory by pushing Pacal Gross’ header around the right post on 88 minutes.

That made it three wins in three matches with nary a goal conceded. Liverpool have never started a Premier League season with four victories on the bounce, with the last occasion in 1990 when they won their opening eight First Division matches.

“Hopefully I will keep helping the team, it is about teamwork,” Alisson said to The Times. “I have my contribution, but I am not the main (one) responsible for the clean sheets. If we do not concede, we will be close to winning because our attack is really good.

“I’m very comfortable at the club, in a great environment, with everybody pushing in the same direction to win. We’ve shown what we are capable of and, hopefully, we can keep on track.”

He also showed off his deft dribbling skills, popping a back pass from Virgil Van Dijk in the air over charging Brighton forward Anthony Knockaert before coolly playing it out from the back. It’s one of those little hints of swagger Liverpool must hold if they are to derail Manchester City’s bid to repeat as league champions.

“We feel good, but the most important thing is that we’re going to try to feel as good for a long time,” midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum told Liverpool’s official website. “The Premier League has just started and everything can happen. We are all confident, as we were last season, but we must not look too far ahead.”

Also influential has been centre back Virgil Van Dijk. The Netherlands international has been part of 10 clean sheets in 17 league matches since his January arrival, and Liverpool have conceded just nine goals in those contests. As Dejan Lovren continues to recover from a pelvic injury, Van Dijk has formed a solid partnership with Joe Gomez, who is on the verge of a call-up to England’s national squad during the international break.

Klopp will likely keep his starting XI unchanged for a fourth straight match, though he would also prefer right back Trent Alexander-Arnold not pick up a yellow card for a fourth consecutive match and put himself on the edge of a one-match ban.

Leicester City (2-0-1) have won three on the trot in all competitions following their season-opening loss at Manchester United. Claude Puel played a calculated gamble in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup match versus League One side Fleetwood Town, starting striker Kelechi Iheanacho amid eight changes from a 2-1 win at Southampton last weekend in hopes of jump-starting his season.

It worked as the Nigeria international bagged his first goal of the season and hit the woodwork on two other occasions in the 4-0 romp as both defender Christian Fuchs and midfielder Vicente Iborra contributed a goal and an assist.

“I am satisfied about the performance, it was a strong performance,” Puel told LCFC TV. “They were fantastic goals, they gave a good feeling for our fans, and it is important to see this kind of performance because all the squad delivered very well.”

Iheanacho is expected to lead the line once more with Jamie Vardy serving the last of his three-match ban for a direct red card. Summer signing Rachid Ghezzal continued his transition to English football from Lyon with a well-taken goal in the 71st minute in his first Foxes start.

“It’s important to keep for the quality of the team,” said Ghezzal, who came off the bench in two of Leicester’s first three league matches. “It was very important for us to make a great game, for intensity, for quality, because the players who play know they may have a long time to play another game.”

Puel is likely to stick with his 4-2-3-1, with Ricardo Pereira likely to stay advanced on the right side in front of Daniel Amartey. The two had swapped spots in the first two matches, but Pereira was more forward in last week’s win versus Southampton.

Liverpool did the double over Leicester City last season after losing 2-0 to them in the third round of the Carabao Cup. Salah accounted for three of the five goals in the wins, bagging a brace in a 2-1 victory at Anfield and the other in a 3-2 triumph in the Midlands in which Vardy was stoned on a potential tying penalty by Simon Mingolet.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are solid favourites at 2/5 odds despite being in the Midlands, while Leicester City have 13/2 odds on taking all three points. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 7/2.

For the match result plus over/under 2.5 goals, Liverpool and over is the punters’ favourite at 21/20, followed by Liverpool and the under (29/10). There is more belief in a 1-1 or 0-0 draw (24/5) than a Leicester City win and over (11/1).

Unsurprisingly, Salah leads the pack for first goal-scorers at 13/5, with Daniel Sturridge 4/1 and both Firmino and Mane at 5/1. Iheanacho is the top option for the Foxes at 17/2, followed by James Maddison and Shinji Okazaki (10/1). Salah has better-than-even money odds to score at some point during the match at 3/4, while Firmino (8/5) narrowly edges out Mane (17/10).

On the Leicester side of the toteboard, Iheanacho returns 13/5 odds and Maddison 16/5.

PREDICTION

Liverpool’s offence has been gummed up slightly the last two matches, but it has not mattered all that much because the defence has played well. Gomez in particular responded positively to the challenge Brighton presented last weekend at Anfield and while his partnership with Van Dijk may be through after the international break, he still has one more match to run.

Puel’s gamble with Iheanacho mid-week was an interesting one considering Leicester City had come off a road win at Southampton. But it paid off, and now the Nigeria international has to follow it up with another strong performance. The Foxes have a strong spine among Harry Maguire, Wes Morgan, Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy that a turnover similar to the one Liverpool created for their lone goal against Brighton should not happen, especially at home.

Not having Vardy around to hassle and harass Liverpool’s back line is going to loom large, but look for Pereira to test Andy Roberson down the right side for the Foxes. If he and Maddison can link through the middle of the park, there may be space for the Portugal wing to try and pick out Iheanacho with a cross.

This will be a tougher road test for Klopp’s side than Crystal Palace, even with the absence of Vardy, but his absence is also going to be why Liverpool continue their perfect start.

Predicted final score: Leicester City 1, LIVERPOOL 2.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 1 Preview — Liverpool (0-0-0) vs. West Ham United (0-0-0)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am making edits in the interim, adding projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction in this blog.)

Both Liverpool and West Ham United were big spenders in the summer transfer window. While the Reds hope the money spent will at least allow them to challenge Manchester City, the Hammers have a more modest goal of stabilising themselves in the Premier League as the teams open their season Sunday at Anfield.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Widely acknowledged as the only team with better than a puncher’s chance of denying City back-to-back Premier League titles, Liverpool – who handed the Citizens three of their five meaningful losses in the 2017-18 season and eliminated them in the Champions League quarterfinals – spent over £160 million to eliminate the few shortcomings they had and add more firepower to an already-vaunted offence after finishing fourth in the table and runners-up in the Champions League.

“There’s competition everywhere. All over the pitch we’ve got two or three guys in the same position,” captain Jordan Henderson told Liverpoolfc.com. “It’s good competition. Everyone is pushing each other on in training to start. And if you don’t start you have to be ready to come and make an impact.

“I feel as though we’ve got a fantastic squad. But it’s down to us to go out and do the business.”

Liverpool (21-12-5 in 2017-18) addressed their most pressing need at keeper, signing Brazil international Alisson from AS Roma for a then-record £67 million to replace Loris Karius, whose two howlers in the Champions League final loss to Real Madrid put a disappointing end to a captivating season.

Naby Keita likely will start straightaway in the midfield of Liverpool’s 4-3-3 set-up as Henderson recovers from helping England reach the World Cup semifinals. Keita actually signed for over £50 million before last season but played for RB Leipzig in 2017-18. Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum are vying for that other midfield spot that flanks James Milner.

The attacking three are as good as it gets in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Salah won the Golden Boot last season with a Premier League-record 32 goals and scored 44 in all competitions, while Firmino and Mane combined to net 47 as Liverpool adjusted to the mid-season departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona and continued to score goals at a break-neck pace.

Into this mix enters Xherdan Shaqiri, the Switzerland international who came over from relegated Stoke City for the cut-rate price of £13.5 million and is one of the best players on the right wing in Europe while capable of finishing with either foot. He and holdover Daniel Sturridge will challenge for minutes behind the aforementioned trio of stars.

The defence is anchored by centre back Virgil Van Dijk, who starts his first full season at Anfield after a protracted transfer saga prevented his arrival from Southampton until January. Van Dijk’s partner likely will be Joe Gomez since Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan are nursing injuries and Dejan Lovren is still working his way back to match shape after helping Croatia reach the World Cup final.

Though West Ham (10-12-16) finished 13th on 42 points last term, it was a season to forget as the east London side endured plenty of hardship. While David Moyes steadied the Irons after they sacked Slaven Bilic in November, supporters cared little for his style of play. During a 3-0 home loss to Burnley in March there were repeated pitch invasions as co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan vacated their chairman’s box due to the rising ire.

After two seasons at London Stadium, West Ham finally opened up the wallet and underwent a staggering makeover. It started on the touchline with the return of Manuel Pellegrini to the Premier League. The Chilean, who guided Man City to their second Premier League title in 2014 and finished no lower than fourth in his three seasons there, had been at Chinese side Hebei China Fortune.

He signed a three-year deal with West Ham in May after assurances the Irons would be aggressive in the summer transfer window, and the owners stayed true to their word as £90 million was shelled out to begin West Ham’s rise from mid-table mediocrity to something better.

The linchpin signing was Lazio right wing Felipe Anderson for £36 million, but the most pivotal one may have cost nothing. Oft-injured midfielder Jack Wilshire moved across London on a free transfer from Arsenal, and with Anderson and newcomer Andriy Yarmolenko on the flanks plus holdover strikers Marko Arnautovic and Chicharito Hernandez, West Ham have an attack that can give defences fits.

Arnautovic scored 11 goals last season but failed to tally in the first 12 matches last season, and the Austria international is determined to come out of the blocks firing this term.

“I remember how I know myself as a player and that wasn’t it,” he lamented to the club’s official website. “When I moved to playing as a striker, and seeing my statistics now I want to play as a striker, score goals and help the team. I like this position now, you feel free, always towards the goals and provide assists, it’s a good position.”

West Ham’s goalkeeping situation was calamitous last season as both Joe Hart and Adrian struggled. Adrian remains as a deputy to summer signing Lukasz Fabianski after the Poland international signed from relegated Swansea City. Issa Diop, a £22 million transfer from Toulouse, likely will pair in central defence with Angelo Ogbonna while Arthur Masauku and newcomer Ryan Fredericks operate the flanks in Pellegrini’s preferred 4-4-2.

Liverpool did the double last season, winning both matches by 4-1 counts as Salah racked up three goals, and have won three on the trot versus West Ham. Anfield has been the stuff of nightmares for the Irons, whose lone win in 23 matches in all competitions there in the Premier League era (1-7-15) was a 3-0 victory Aug. 29, 2015.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are heavy favourites at 2/9 odds, while West Ham are a clear darkhorse at 11/1. The odds of the teams splittng the points is also long at 5/1.

One outcome bettors seem to expect is at least a four-goal scoreline as Liverpool and over 3.5 goals checks in at 29/20 odds. A draw and over 3.5 goals is 18/1.

Salah is the favourite as a first-goal scorer at 12/5, with Sturridge a suprising second at 16/5. Firmino is 7/2, Mane further back at 9/2 and Shaqiri has 5/1 odds to open his Liverpool account with the first goal of the match. Arnautovic has 11/1 odds for those who fancy an Irons first strike.

Salah, Sturridge and Firmino are all even-money or better to score in this match, with Mane not far off the trail at 11/8 and Shaqiri 3/2. Arnautovic has 3/1 odds to find the back of the net, and Yarmolenko checks in with 9/2 odds as an anytime goal-scorer.

PREDICTION

Everything about this contest screams fire-wagon football, and Liverpool will undoubtedly do their best to play in such a style. How composed this new-look West Ham United side will be key to them having any chance of nicking a rare point at Anfield, but Arnautovic does have the tablesetters in Wilshire, Anderson and Yarmolenko to help stretch Liverpool’s defense.

This should be an up-and-down affair, with Liverpool having more ups than West Ham on this day.

PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 4, WEST HAM UNITED 1

2018-19 EPL Team-by-team previews: Liverpool (August 3)

(Writer’s Note: This is the 17th of what will hopefully be 20 team previews in 20 days. Or at the very least, all 20 teams prior to the 2018-19 Premier League’s season-opener between Manchester United and Leicester City on August 10. Links to previous teams can be found at the bottom of the page.)

LIVERPOOL REDS

Manager: Jurgen Klopp (Hire Date: Oct. 8, 2015)
Tenure Length: 5th/20 in Premier League and 14th/92 in Top 4 leagues of English football
2017-18 Record: 21-12-5, 75 points, 4th in Premier League
2017-18 Goals scored: 84
2017-18 Goal Difference: plus-46
Number of Current Consecutive Seasons in Premier League and/or First Division: 57 (including 2018-19)
Last Promotion: 1962
Last Relegation: 
1954 (First Division to Second Division)
2017-18 Champions League: Runner-up (Real Madrid)
2017-18 Carabao Cup: Third-round loss (Leicester City)
2017-18 FA Cup: Fourth-round loss (West Bromwich Albion)

2017/18 REVIEW

Liverpool opened its season with a rollicking 3-3 draw at Watford in which it rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits only to be pegged back in second-half stoppage time. The Reds then ripped off four straight wins, including a home-and-away sweep of Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim by a 6-3 aggregate to advance to the Champions League group stage proper.

Jurgen Klopp’s team went into the international break on a sensational high after waxing Arsenal 4-0 as both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino each had a goal and an assist. But any dreams of grandeur were quickly tempered coming of the recess after a 5-0 thrashing administered by Manchester City, though the match swung on a red card to Sadio Mane in the 37th minute.

Liverpool opened group play with a 2-2 draw at Anfield versus Sevilla, its defence again called into question while Firmino missed a penalty that could have put the match out of reach. It was part of a seven-match spell in which the Reds won just one game but also lost just one — getting bounced by Leicester City in the second round of the Carabao Cup and avenging the defeat four days later on the same Midlands grounds as Simon Mingolet made a penalty save on Jamie Vardy to preserve a 3-2 scoreline.

Liverpool had another pair of draws around the October break versus Newcastle United and Manchester United before drilling Slovenian side NK Maribor 7-0 to record the largest English football away win in European competition. The low point of defender Dejan Lovren’s season came in Liverpool’s 4-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur in which the Croatia international was responsible for two goals and was pulled by Klopp on the half-hour.

Liverpool found its groove after that match, going unbeaten in 18 matches (13-5-0) across all competitions. The draws were not without some anxiety, though, as Alberto Moreno had a miserable time as Liverpool threw away a three-goal second-half lead in a draw at Seville in Champions League. That followed a draw against Chelsea in which Salah scored against his former team only to see the Reds pulled back late on a goal by Willian.

The Reds finished atop their Champions League group in style by flattening CSKA Moscow 7-0 in their final group match as Philippe Coutinho had three goals and James Milner had three assists. That led into the first Merseyside derby of the year, which played to a 1-1 draw as Liverpool put just three of its 23 shots on target and Lovren conceded a penalty that led to the Toffees’ equaliser.

Despite the lengthy unbeaten streak, the likelihood of Coutinho moving onto Barcelona in the January window became more apparent as the Catalan side repeatedly increased its offers for the Brazil international after each rejection from Liverpool. Still, the Reds marched on, playing a wild 3-3 draw at the Emirates against Arsenal during the busy fixture period in which the Gunners scored all three of their goals in a five-minute span of madness before Firmino rescued a point.

The excitement of the announcement that defender Virgil Van Dijk finally broke free from Southampton on a £75 million move was tempered the following week when Coutinho made his inevitable departure from Anfield. In the end, £142 million was a figure Liverpool could accept as Salah continued his blistering scoring pace.

The last two matches of the unbeaten streak were wins to savour — a 2-1 victory over eternal rival Everton in the third round of the FA Cup and then a 4-3 triumph over Manchester City that also marked the eventual champion’s first loss in league play. Firmino, Salah and Mane scored nine minutes apart to create a 4-1 lead before Liverpool held out after conceding two goals late.

While a letdown was not surprising, the shock 1-0 scoreline at Swansea City that Van Dijk contributed to with an error still banged around for a few days as arguably the biggest single-match upset all season. The hangover continued with an FA Cup exit at a similar relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion, but the streamlining of the schedule coupled with Man City’s dominance meant Liverpool could focus on Champions League play.

The Reds waxed FC Porto 5-0 on the road in their first-leg Champions League round of 16 tie, rendering the scoreless draw for the second one moot after a scoreless draw. There was a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, but before dispatching Watford 5-0 on St. Patrick’s Day, Liverpool learned it would face Man City in the Champions League quarterfinals.

While much was made of Man City’s bus being subjected to the animated Liverpool supporters en route to Anfield, there was also no doubt Liverpool was the better side on that day with a clinical 3-0 beatdown of the champion-elect. Taking full advantage of the Anfield cauldron and Pep Guardiola’s inexplicable decision to start Ilkay Gundogan over Raheem Sterling, Klopp’s charges ran riot in the midfield in the first half-hour as Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mane all scored before a composed defence provided a needed clean sheet.

Another draw in the Merseyside derby, this one 0-0 at Goodison Park, ran Liverpool’s unbeaten streak against the Toffees to 17 matches in all competitions, but the second leg at the Etihad loomed soon after. City gave itself an early lifeline through Gabriel Jesus in the second minute, and Liverpool bent repeatedly but never gave up the second goal — though one was disallowed — that could have resulted in the floodgates opening.

Salah delivered a needed away goal in the 56th minute, and Firmino finished City off in the 77th as Liverpool advanced 5-1 on aggregate. The Reds were also doing their part domestically to ensure a top-four finish as both Chelsea and Arsenal fell off the pace, trying to fend off Spurs for third.

The Champions League semifinal pitted Liverpool versus AS Roma, and once more the Anfield cauldron proved intimidating for 70 minutes as both Salah and Firmino had braces bookending Mane’s goal, but the Italian side pulled two goals back in the final 10 minutes to ensure there would be a proper second leg in Rome.

Mane and Wijnaldum scored around a Milner own goal in the first 25 minutes, but even at 7-3 on aggregate, Roma refused to capitulate. The Giallorossi pulled within 7-6 after a penalty deep in second-half stoppage time, but there finally was no more time for Roma to pull off one last miracle, and Liverpool had advanced to its first Champions League final in 11 years.

The Reds wrapped up the Premier League season in fourth place for the second straight year, and it was the first time they topped 70 points in back-to-back seasons since 2007-08 and 2008-09. Liverpool, though, was also 25 points adrift of champion Manchester City.

Real Madrid stood between Liverpool and its sixth European title as the Spanish side was seeking its third consecutive Champions League title. For nearly the first half-hour, the Reds were on level terms with the defending champions, then disaster struck as Salah got tangled up with Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. Depending on the point of view, it was either an awkward collision or Ramos, no stranger to the dark arts, angled his body in such a way to make Salah bear the full weight of the fall on his shoulder.

The Egypt international tried to play through the pain, but a short while after the injury, it was clear he could not continue. The image of him tearfully walking off the pitch lingered, and the match slowly titled in Madrid’s favor.

Keeper Loris Karius committed a terrible blunder to gift Madrid its first goal in the 51st minute as Karim Benzema stuck out his boot and deflected Karius’ throw before it agonisingly rolled into the net. Liverpool would draw level four minutes later through Mane as he tapped in Lovren’s header off Milner’s corner kick.

Madrid, though, would not be denied on this day. Gareth Bale, who entered the game as a substitute, reclaimed the lead for Los Blancos with a tremendous bicycle kick in the 63rd minute. Already with one howler to his credit, Karius — who in all likelihood played most of the match with a concussion after taking a shoulder from Ramos during a Madrid corner early in the contest — then flubbed a swerving 40-yard shot by Bale into the net seven minutes from time to complete the 3-1 scoreline.

POTENTIAL STARTING XI

Liverpool Lineup.png

Quick note, the numbers for Alisson and Fabinho are guesses based on what is available on the roster. While there are four new signings, only three of them are going to make the cut for the starting XI (Sorry, Xherdan Shaqiri). The two obvious changes are between the sticks, where Alisson supplants Karius, and in the midfield, where Naby Keita makes his long-awaited Liverpool debut after signing with the team before last season, and Fabinho was somewhat of a surprise addition this summer after coming over from Monaco.

The talent, though, oozes throughout the pitch. Van Dijk will have his first full season in Anfield, and while Lovren took his lumps last season, he should enter this term full of confidence after helping Croatia reach the World Cup final. Henderson was a key component of England’s World Cup squad that reached the semifinals before losing to Lovren and the Vatreni, and Alexander-Arnold will set out to prove his meteoric rise that included a trip to Russia with the Three Lions was no fluke.

It says something that Andrew Robertson could be considered the weakest link on the team, and he is anything but that at left back.

Fun fact: All three of Liverpool’s projected forwards in this starting XI scored in the World Cup as Mane netted a goal for Senegal in group play and Firmino potted one for Brazil while coming off the bench in four of the Selecao’s five matches.

The signings also give Klopp plenty of depth in the midfield as Milner, Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum can all provide support in the forms of being cup and Premier League regulars while stepping in during the early part of the season.

THE NEW GUYS AND THE GONE GUYS

While saying all the right things about Karius in the summer, Klopp knew he had to get a new No. 1 for this season to make any realistic challenge at Manchester City. Alisson was the best keeper available, and despite the £65 million price tag to pry him from AS Roma, the Reds are somewhat fortunate he did not have a standout World Cup — note, Alisson did not have a bad World Cup — and did not have to pay that premium after the Selecao lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Keita had a solid final season with Red Bull Leipzig, totaling eight goals and seven assists in all competitions and got a taste of Champions League for the second time in his career.

While Fabinho’s signing was a bit of a surprise, and he will have plenty of motivation to impress after not making Brazil’s World Cup roster, Xherdan Shaqiri’s signing is an intriguing curiosity. The Switzerland international had a goal and an assist in helping his side reach the round of 16 at the World Cup, and while he is behind Salah in the pecking order on the right side, the Egyptian’s room to roam means Shaqiri can be a devastating 30-minute sub from his favored right side or be used as a rotation player to keep others fresh.

A relative bargain of a signing at £13.5 million after Stoke City was relegated, Shaqiri could wind up with a surprising goals per 90 minute average if utilised correctly.

In the other direction, midfielder Emre Can moved to Juventus on a free transfer, while backup keeper Danny Ward — who dropped to No. 4 in the pecking order with Alisson’s arrival — joined Leicester City on a £12.5 million move. Ben Woodburn was loaned out to Sheffield United, and there is talk No. 3 keeper Simon Mingolet could move to Barcelona.

THE GUY WORTH SEEING

Mohamed Salah (F)

Forty-four goals in all competitions, including a record 32 in the Premier League made the world sit up and take notice of the Egypt international.

Silky smooth on the ball, an adept finisher in any style you like, Salah was more than the linchpin of Liverpool’s offence, he was the Swiss Army knife because he could pop up anywhere in the attacking third and find a way to score a goal. He had eight match-winners in league play and put nearly half of his shots on target in the back of the net.

That is some ruthless efficiency.

Expected to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that coast him Egypt’s World Cup opener while still scoring two goals for the Pharaohs in their other two matches, the only real concern for Salah is fatigue/burnout from the cumulative long season when including Champions League play and the World Cup.

Defenses will obviously key on him, but there is still so much offensive firepower on the Reds that step back in goal haul may be negligible. The bigger short-term concern is how quickly he gets a read on new midfield teammates Keita and Fabinho as the attacking six look to wreak havoc and misery on opponents.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool is the second-choice favorite to win the Premier League at 4/1 odds and has 2/9 odds on repeating a top-four finish for the third straight season. The Reds also have 4/1 odds to be at the top of the table on Christmas Day and 3/1 odds on finishing outside the top four.

Salah is a 4/9 favorite to finish as Liverpool’s top scorer, with Firmino (4/1) and Mane (6/1) rounding out the top three. For the Premier League’s Golden Boot, Salah is second-choice at 5/1 odds behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and Firmino is eighth on the list at 20/1.

FIRST FOUR MATCHES/LAST FOUR MATCHES

Aug. 12 — West Ham United (13th) H
Aug. 20 — Crystal Palace (11th) A
Aug. 25 — Brighton and Hove Albion (15th) H
Sept. 1 — Leicester City (9th) A
—————-
April 20 — Cardiff City (N/A) A
April 27 — Huddersfield Town (16th) H
May 4 — Newcastle United (10th) A
May 12 — Wolverhampton (N/A) H

OUTLOOK

Will it be enough? That is the question which will trail Liverpool all season. Will the signing of Alisson be enough to help Liverpool get back to a Champions League final for a second straight year? Will Keita’s long-awaited arrival and Fabinho’s surprising signing be enough to strengthen the spine of a team that, while inconsistent at times, still allowed only one goal per game in league play? Will Shaqiri’s influence on the wing provide enough offensive diversity?

Liverpool’s mayhem-inducing, high-pressing style gives it the shortest distance to make up among the Premier League teams chasing Manchester City — remember, the Reds beat them three out of four times in all competitions last season — but 25 points is still a large gap to narrow. That’s not to say it cannot be done, but Liverpool will need the same rub of the green it got last season in Champions League play to follow it into domestic play.

How Klopp shuffles his players in the early going as players recover from World Cup summers will be something to watch. This is the first time Liverpool is playing back-to-back Champions League seasons since a six-year run from 2004-10, and the World Cup compresses recovery time further.

But the good news is Liverpool has both a favourable run-out and perhaps the best run-in of any title contender in the event it needs to make up ground in the final four matchdays. Of that ending quartet, only away to Newcastle United appears to be a tricky test, and the other three teams could be facing relegation.

There are teams that are good stalkers and teams good at being stalked. Liverpool is a perfect example of the former, and the Reds have a perfect foil in Manchester City as the latter. This time around, there should be a title race.

PREDICTED FINISH

2nd place

PREVIOUS TEAMS’ PREVIEWS

July 18 — Fulham                                      July 28 — Newcastle United
July 19 — Cardiff City                               July 29 — Leicester City
July 20 — Wolverhampton                      July 30 — Everton
July 21 — Southampton                           July 31 — Burnley
July 22 — Huddersfield Town                 August 1 — Arsenal
July 23 — Brighton and Hove Albion    August 2 — Chelsea
July 24 — Watford                                     August 3 — Liverpool
July 25 — West Ham United                    August 4 — Tottenham Hotspur
July 26 — Bournemouth                          August 5 — Manchester United
July 27 — Crystal Palace                          August 6 — Manchester City