LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MAY 05: Adam Lallana of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and Villarreal CF at Anfield on May 05, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Leicester City for the club’s 2016/17 debut at Anfield in front of the new main stand. Here’s how they should lineup.
Towards the end of last season, Anfield was home to some of the most memorable nights of recent Liverpudlian memory. And because there is no better setting for a brilliant match of football in front of the best set of fans, it was made just that much better.
The first half of 2016 saw began gaining momentum against Manchester United 2-0 on their Europa League ride. Fans begun believing again.
They next drew Borussia Dortmund.
An impressive first leg in Germany had Anfield ready to erupt for the second leg. Dortmund hit the ship with a damaging blow but Liverpool refused to sink. In one of the greatest nights at Anfield, Europa League considered, Liverpool came back to beat Jurgen Klopp’s former club. It was magical and beautiful and enthralling and footballing ecstasy.
Liverpool felt invincible after that. They had to win the Europa League, they just had to. They then walloped Everton 4-0 before having another fantastic night against Villarreal in the semifinals.
That was the last big moment at home last season and they obviously ended up losing the Europa League final, but the mystique around Anfield is back.
And now, Liverpool are finally back at Anfield. New main stand and all.
It’s Liverpool. It’s Leicester. It’s Anfield.
Here’s how they should lineup.
GK Loris Karius
I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR MEDICAL DEGREES AND HIGHLY VALUED OPINIONS, DOC, I JUST WANT LORIS KARIUS TO PLAY FOR LIVERPOOL!
Karius was meant to be out for 8-10 weeks with the broken hand suffered on Dejan Lovren’s face but has returned to training after just six.
In all honestly, he more than likely needs more time on the training ground before he’s ready to start in the Premier League.
In all honestly, he more than likely will be on the bench (at best) behind Simon Mignolet but I just can’t take it anymore and will hope and hope and hope that it’ll be Karius between the sticks as Liverpool return to Anfield.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 06: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool talks with Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
RB Nathaniel Clyne
I have half a mind to think that Clyne might just be pushed to left back to personally deal with Riyad Mahrez rather than having James Milner or Alberto Moreno get after the 2015/16 PFA Player of the Year.
But that’s not what I’d do, I’d keep the status quo and consistency and let Clyne stay on his familiar, favored right flank. The one that he owns at Liverpool. But it’s in play, is all I’m saying, don’t rule it out.
Clyne is working back to his accustomed form which is something that’s forgivable after all the football he played for Liverpool last term followed by going straight to the Euros with England.
WIGAN, ENGLAND – JULY 17: Joel Matip of Liverpool during a pre-season friendly between Wigan Athletic and Liverpool at JJB Stadium on July 17, 2016 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
CB Joel Matip
Matip has spoke about how he can’t wait to hear “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Liverpool fans at Anfield and he should be able to do so on the pitch rather than in a bib getting a front row seat to The Jurgen Klopp Sideline Experience. (Which might be better than playing.)
The Cameroonian was signed to be Liverpool’s first choice central defender and looks the part this season, though his early season partner Lovren has looked a bit better, if not more consistent.
Matip and Lovren are in the process of forging a formidable partnership, one that’ll be tested by the pace of Ahmed Musa and Jamie Vardy. Especially with how high Liverpool like to press and how deep Leicester like to sit.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 06: Dejan Lovren of Liverpool applauds supporters following the International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
CB Dejan Lovren
Lovren will continue to retain his place so long that he’s fit and fine. Barring a inconceivable cratering of form– wait, it is Lovren, it’s happened before, it’s possible.
But for now Lovren has certainly earned the trust of Klopp, the media and fans, though only one opinion in that treble matters and it’s not the tertiary entity.
That goal he scored against Dortmund to complete the comeback, man, it still gives me goosebumps. It never won’t, the same way watching highlights from the 2005 Champions League final or the Steven Gerrard FA Cup final.
When the ball floated in the air, I had a weird sense of optimism. It’s the Klopp effect.
Since Liverpool finished 2nd in 2008/09, there was absolutely nothing to suggest that they’d complete that comeback. There was equity gained from some great years in the 2000s which is what sets it apart from the aberration that was 2013/14.
But when the ball was floated to the back stick by James Milner, even before the camera panned to whoever was waiting to compete in the air for it, I thought “goal.”
And a goal it was, followed by an absolutely brilliant celebration as he passionately ran to the corner and jumped on his butt and bounced like he didn’t just land on grass.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 06: Alberto Moreno of Liverpool during the International Champions Cup 2016 match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)
LB Alberto Moreno
With the pace already discussed from Musa and Vardy, Moreno’s inclusion becomes that more important. Granted, Mahrez may be licking his lips at the idea of running at someone whose brain may have been lobotomized at some point in recent times, but at least he has recovery pace.
Plus, I still rate Moreno enough– well, give him a bigger leash than most. I’m just not ready to give up on the endearing Spaniard.
Moreno has been sat on the bench behind Milner the past two matches and Milner took a play out of Moreno’s playbook last match in drifting out of position in the buildup to a goal scored.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 06: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool applauds after the International Champions Cup 2016 match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)
CM Jordan Henderson
It’s looking like Emre Can won’t be fit to face Leicester on Saturday which is a borderline tragedy. It affects all those around him as there isn’t a like-for-like swap that should be made for the match.
There’s Lucas Leiva, but he’s returning from injury as well. Then there’s Kevin Stewart, but it’s Kevin Stewart. (I love you Kevin Stewart, just not as much as Adam Lallana or others that the team could be tinged to fit in)
Henderson drops deep (again), and he impressed against Tottenham in this role, and in turn the players at attacking midfield to have to do a little more defensive work.
But Klopp’s Liverpool have been fluid, elastic teams. Some games they’ve played with a left wing but not a right wing. Others, because of how hectic they can make the game at times, it looks like they’ve played with four box-to-box central midfielders with all the ground the team is covering.
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 29: Adam Lallana of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on December 29, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
CM Adam Lallana
Lallana has been fantastic this season playing in a deeper position. It’s obviated the expectation that he absolutely must contribute with a goal or an assist every game.
Against Tottenham, Lallana ran more (12.5km) than anyone has in a game that they began tracking the stat. Liverpool have three players (Henderson and Milner being the others) who could reasonably break that record, if Lallana doesn’t himself again this season. There’s absolutely no surprises that Lallana did it.
It’ll be a bit more difficult for Lallana in this formation. There’s only two central midfielders rather than three, without Gini Wijnaldum, so he’ll have to be a little more reserved. Or Henderson is going to have to be 100% reserved.
But it could work. It’ll just take a little help from his friends.
Liverpool’s Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the pre-season International Champions Cup football match between Spanish champions, Barcelona and Liverpool at Wembley stadium in London on August 6, 2016. / AFP / Glyn KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
RM Sadio Mane
This is the ripple effect for including Lallana next to Henderson rather than Milner or Lucas or Stewart: Mane’s position will technically be right midfield rather than attacking right midfield. There’s nothing wrong with this.
Mane will still be far forward in the attack, he’ll just need to fill the space behind him more than he usually will (or should).
But with Leicester’s affinity for counter attacks, Liverpool will be piling numbers forward anyway so he’ll be up on the left back like usual. If that left back darts forward, it’ll be on Mane to pick him up. No different from any other game.
Mane has shown the ability and work rate to drop and cover his man and help Clyne, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 06: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool during the International Champions Cup 2016 match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)
AMC Roberto Firmino
Putting Firmino back in the Lallana/Wijnaldum role feels much more of a stretch than having Mane and Coutinho drop slightly deeper to cover the area.
Firmino is in the no. 10, where he belongs ESPECIALLY against a counter attacking team.
When Firmino plays striker against teams that defend deep it just doesn’t work well. He’s not the striker that’s going to occupy the center backs, be fine without seeing the ball for long periods at a time if the game isn’t going to plan and will be ready to smash a goal at first touch. That’s just not Firmino.
He’s the guy that loves to be on the ball, combine with others. That’s where he should be against Leicester and pull the strings and help break down the Foxes.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 14: Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool celebrates scoring his free kick during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on August 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LM Philippe Coutinho
To continue the same trend of defending why Coutinho can play a few steps deeper on the kickoff but largely assume the same areas once the game gets going.
With Coutinho, Moreno or Milner usually need to provide the width up the left flank anyway. He’s a tucked in attacking midfielder, he gravitates towards the center of the pitch because he needs to.
Coutinho’s finishing boots are an x-factor at Liverpool. He’s still silk when he’s not finishing well, but Liverpool are that much better whenever he’s really threatening the goal. If he scored against Tottenham after four minutes, things could’ve been a bit different.
On the same thread, had he not had them against Arsenal, Liverpool doesn’t win that game. Simple as.
The goal that gets forgotten from that Dortmund game is Coutinho’s. A brilliant 22 yard rocket into the bottom corner. It was the one that got the ball rolling after Marco Reus made it 3-1, completely eviscerating the momentum that Divock Origi gave Liverpool to make it 2-1.
Without Coutinho there, Liverpool probably don’t win that game. Dortmund wouldn’t have been on their heels.
BASEL, SWITZERLAND – MAY 18: Daniel Sturridge (R) of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with his team mate Philippe Coutinho (L) during the UEFA Europa League Final match between Liverpool and Sevilla at St. Jakob-Park on May 18, 2016 in Basel, Switzerland. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
ST Daniel Sturridge
Please oh please just let Sturridge play whenever he’s fit. Let him get in form and reap the results.
Sturridge doesn’t want to play wide, because no strikers want to play wide. Especially strikers with his pedigree and his ability at his age.
As said in the Firmino tidbit, the Brazilian isn’t someone who’ll occupy both center backs. Sturridge will! And does! And has that killer finishing touch, one that shone in the Europa League final and many other games.
The striker should be in the team absolutely all the time.