Liverpool’s opening Premier League clash of the season against Leeds United should provide the greatest indication yet regarding Jurgen Klopp’s strategy for the season ahead.
The English champions await Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-promoted Leeds side at Anfield on Saturday. It’ll kickstart an unusual season for Liverpool – who will begin the season with little to no history to chase and instead will just focus on being the best once again.
It will also offer early indications as to who has done enough in pre-season to warrant a position in Klopp’s starting line-up and whether there are any noticeable absentees.
While the first-team will most likely look very similar to the last two years, Klopp could look to shake a few things up and may have to leave one or two unhappy players out of the squad altogether.
Whether or not Georginio Wijnaldum will start is likely to be the hottest topic of discussion from the media given the player’s contractual situation and persistent links with Barcelona.
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Also, considering Jordan Henderson is still an injury concern and Wijnaldum has started in all of Liverpool’s fixtures from pre-season, if the 29-year-old were to be overlooked from the starting XI it could mean that Klopp is already planning ahead to life without his most tried-and-tested midfielder from last season.
It will be interesting to see if Joel Matip is selected following a successful return against Blackpool last weekend. The last time both Matip and Joe Gomez were both available for selection it was the former who was chosen to partner Virgil van Dijk against Everton back in June.
This also ties into whether 17-year-old Billy Koumetio will make the bench following an outstanding pre-season campaign. The teenager was selected in Klopp’s squad for the Community Shield clash ahead of Nat Phillips, Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg and if he were to feature again it could indicate that Koumetio has been solidified as the club’s fourth-choice centre-back.
Klopp won’t want to change too much given the club have made just one addition this summer in the form of Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos. What has worked well in Liverpool’s favour over the past two seasons has been consistency and Klopp will not want to alter a winning formula too much.
Time to step up
So what could we learn on Saturday? Well, if Naby Keita were to start it could demonstrate that the Guinean midfielder is ready to kick on again from the outstanding run of form he enjoyed towards the end of last season. It will imply that Keita has earnt the trust of his manager and that he could finally be ready to impact matches in a similar fashion to that of Liverpool’s most recent PL match at Anfield against Chelsea which saw Keita rocket home an unstoppable 25-year piledriver into the top corner.
Similarly, we think if Curtis Jones is to feature at any point during the Leeds match it will represent the first real indicator that the West-Derby midfielder is set for a more prominent role in the first-team following the departure of long-term Anfield servant Adam Lallana.
The final piece of the jigsaw regarding Klopp’s plans for the season could involve Rhian Brewster. The boss recently confirmed that he was still undecided on the player’s future and whether or not the 20-year-old is involved in the squad could indicate whether he is to be loaned out or not. If Klopp overlooks Brewster, we think it suggests a loan move will be the most likely outcome for the striker.
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