Martin King brings you all the information you need to know ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League opener against West Ham on Sunday.
The time of the year we have all been waiting for with hope and excitement is finally here as the Premier League is back!
Liverpool kick their campaign off at Anfield, where the Reds host West Ham United in a traditional Sunday afternoon face-off. Theirs is a season they expect will yield a glory never before seen.
With the 2018 summer transfer window closing on Thursday evening, the Merseyside club ended it having spent over £175 million on new player recruits – the highest of any team in the Premier League.
Liverpool invested that amount on midfielders Naby Keïta and Fabinho, attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who the home crowd will be most excited to see.
However, the club’s business didn’t end there, as last season’s Player of the Year, Mohamed Salah, joined teammate Roberto Firmino in committing his long-term future to the club.
If pre-season form is anything to go by, then the team spirit Jürgen Klopp prides his team on has only grown stronger with these additions. The Reds played nine games across four countries, recording seven wins and scoring 27 goals, all while putting in impressive displays of quality on the pitch and character off it.
These displays, along with last season’s top four and Champions League final finish have set a high standard for Liverpool both within the club and outside of it, though, Klopp is well aware that although many tip his side to end this campaign as Premier League champions, they still carry the moniker of underdogs.
“The plan is that we really go for it,” the manager said on Friday, according to the club’s official website.
“We want to be, it’s clear for ages, champions of England. But what about the other clubs? The champions are Manchester City; they didn’t lose any player and they brought in [Riyad] Mahrez, so that doesn’t make them weaker.”
Klopp added: “We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago. We are the ones who have to do more and fight more – that must be our attitude.”
West Ham, meanwhile, have also enjoyed a summer of strong recruitment.
The Hammers started at the top, replacing manager David Moyes with former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, the Chilean joining on the back of a two year spell in China. Under him, the team has already experienced some positive changes, spending £91.5 million on nine players, which include Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko and Filipe Anderson.
Getting them to gel as a unit will undoubtedly be Pellegrini’s initial challenge, as the 64-year-old looks to engineer a finish much higher than last season’s 13th place for West Ham.
Liverpool have fitness concerns in midfield and defence, as centre-backs Jöel Matip and Joe Gomez and midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson face late fitness tests ahead of the match at Anfield.
Klopp has also ruled Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan out of a team that is otherwise fit and set to fire, with Liverpool’s famous front-three receiving top class support in the likes of Shaqiri, Keïta and a reinvigorated Daniel Sturridge.
West Ham have just four first team players unavailable, as Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll and Edimilson Fernandes are still sidelined by injury. Either way, Pellegrini will have a lot of options for his starting line-up, a challenge he appreciates.
“For me, it is more difficult when you don’t have players and you just have eleven because then you don’t have any problems and you just choose the same starting XI every week, but that is impossible because the number of games and the injuries the players have,” the Hammers boss said, according to West Ham’s official website.
“For me, it’s easier to have more good players and some of them must wait than to not have any option to change.”
Any title challenging season must begin with a positive result and Liverpool face both tasks as massive favourites, and rightly so.
At least three of their four summer signings could make their competitive debut on Sunday and a first experience of Anfield last Tuesday – in the 3-1 friendly win over Torino – would’ve boosted the team’s morale and they will hope to use that home advantage again to inspire a first win of the season.
West Ham have won only once at Anfield in the Premier League era and face an almighty task against the Reds, who put eight goals past them last season.
Expect more thrills for Klopp’s men in this latest battle, which they will challenge themselves to come out of with a clean sheet.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 West Ham United