Reds have awesome attack but suspect defence
Reds have firepower in attack but a suspect backline could derail chances
A wave of optimism swept through Anfield when Juergen Klopp was unveiled as the new Liverpool manager last October.
Passionate, witty, and charismatic, Klopp didn't take long to endear himself to the fans.
Their performances during his first seven months were frustratingly inconsistent but, on occasions when they turned on the style, they looked truly unstoppable - the wins over Manchester United, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund come to mind.
By the end of last season, Klopp had taken the club to the League Cup and Europa League finals, both of which they lost.
The Reds emit an air of quiet confidence as they prepare for their first full season under the former Borussia Dortmund coach.
Last term, Klopp had to make do with the remnants of Brendan Rodgers' failed reign.
This time round, with a full pre-season and a summer transfer window under his belt, the 49-year-old will be expecting to see performances that more accurately reflect his footballing philosophy.
His knack of nurturing unknowns will be crucial at a time when Liverpool are no longer the desired destination for the best players.
In what looks to be the most open Premier League title race in years, the Reds have largely flown under the radar.
Generally, not much is expected of them, with the EPL limelight hogged by the two Manchester clubs and their high-profile player and manager signings.
But Klopp has injected back into the Liverpool system a vital ingredient that can work miracles: Belief.
It showed on Saturday when they thrashed a Barcelona side containing Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi 4-0 at Wembley, although they were subsequently hammered by Mainz 4-0 in Germany less than 24 hours later.
If Klopp can get his players to properly execute the attacking blueprint he has in mind, then the Reds could be in for a memorable ride this season.
1. Philippe Coutinho, 24, attacking midfielder
This could be a pivotal season for the 24-year-old as he enters the prime years of his career.
The Brazilian has been Liverpool's brightest spark over two tumultuous campaigns.
Technically superb and blessed with a killer pass and a wicked shot, Coutinho is probably the only player guaranteed of a starting spot in a seriously crowded attacking midfield/forward department.
His best position is in the role behind the striker, where he is afforded more freedom in the opponents' half, although his ability to drift across the penalty box to open up space for a shot makes him an equally outstanding wide player.
2. Daniel Sturridge, 26, striker
Sturridge's level of contribution depends on how well he and the club manage his health.
After another injury-plagued campaign, he finally managed to get a run of games under his belt towards the tail end.
He guarantees goals, based on his 21 league goals in Liverpool's title charge during the 2013/14 campaign, scoring 21 league goals.
With a talented attacking midfield set to provide the frontline with plenty of chances, this season could be Sturridge's best yet.
But, a slight hip injury means he will miss Liverpool's final preparations for the new campaign.
With competition from striker Divock Origi, he cannot afford to miss too many games.
3. Sadio Mane, 24, forward
Mane arrived at Anfield as the club's third-most expensive player ever, at a fee of £30m ($52.8m).
In two seasons with Southampton, he netted 25 goals in 75 appearances in all competitions.
The Senegal international, with 36 caps, packs blistering pace and is a potent threat in one-on-one situations. He is equally comfortable playing in any of the three positions behind the main striker.
His ability to get behind defences and willingness to close down spaces high up the field suit the Liverpool game plan perfectly.
His superb display against Barcelona on Saturday, when he scored his first goal, suggests that he is ready to get down to business.
The defence remains a worry. The failed pursuit of Leicester's Ben Chilwell means Liverpool's left-back position will continue to come under scrutiny.
Spaniard Alberto Moreno's poor defensive discipline cost the Reds last term, and Klopp has deplyed midfielder James Milner in a fullback role in pre-season.
However, Milner went off in the first half against Barcelona with a heel injury. Should it turn out to be serious, then Liverpool are back to square one.
He is the latest defensive player to join the treatment room queue. New goalkeeper Loris Karius' hand injury, picked up during the pre-season tour of the US, rules him out until October. Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez, Lucas Leiva, and Joel Matip are also carrying injuries.
The lack of European football can help the situation. While the excellent team spirit in the camp should put them in good stead.
For Klopp, it's all about the collective rather than marquee signings. With the players now more attuned to his ways, there is hope that Liverpool are on track to be where they truly belong.
KEY INS AND OUTS
- Sadio Mane (Southampton, £30m)
- Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle, £25m)
- Loris Karius (Mainz, £4.7m)
- Ragnar Klavan (Augsburg, £4.2m)
- Alex Manninger (Augsburg, free)
- Joel Matip (Schalke, free)
- Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth, £15m)
- Joe Allen (Stoke, £13m)
- Brad Smith (Bournemouth, £6m)
- Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahce, £5m)
- Jerome Sinclair (Watford, £4m)
- Jordan Rossiter (Rangers, £250,000)
- Joao Teixeira (Porto, £250,000)
- Jon Flanagan (Burnley, loan)
- Kolo Toure (Celtic, released)
Klopp to boycott The Sun
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp will no longer speak to reporters from The Sun after the British tabloid carried an article about the private life of defender Dejan Lovren.
The tabloid published a detailed article about how Croatia international Lovren missed June's Euro 2016 in an attempt to save his marriage. Klopp says he will no longer answer any questions directly from The Sun reporters, for an indefinite period, as Liverpool prepare to start their season at Arsenal on Sunday.
"I think that in life - no matter how much of a public figure the person is - there are things which should remain private," said Klopp after Liverpool were thrashed 4-0 at Mainz in a friendly last Sunday.
His stance against the tabloid came to light on Saturday after Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 at Wembley when he refused to answer a reporter's question. - AFP.