With less than two months to go until the first game of the Premier League season, we are going to take a stab at predicting the Liverpool starting XI for the trip to Norwich City.
The Reds face the newly-promoted side at Carrow Road on Saturday, August 14.
There is a long way to go until then, with plenty of comings and goings sure to take place.
Ibrahima Konate is highly unlikely to be the only new signing this summer, making this task a particularly difficult one.
In fact, the transfer window does not close until after the season begins. Will Liverpool have all their business done before this game?
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There are also a few Reds involved in international competitions for the next few weeks. In total, there are nine Liverpool stars still at Euro 2020 and the Copa America.
Hopefully, none of these players will pick up any injuries. As well as this, if any of them reach the final, they will have a very limited pre-season, making it unlikely that they will be fit to play on the opening day.
Then, we have to take into account the injuries that ruled out all of the centre-backs last season. Will they be ready to return?
We will be basing our selection off of our predicted Liverpool squad for 2021/22, which we did last week.
So, with everything taken into consideration, here is our early prediction.
Defence: Konate thrown straight into the Liverpool XI
We think that there will be three Reds involved in the Copa America Final on July 11. Brazil are one of the favourites to win the tournament and have Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino as part of their squad.
That means that they will have at least two weeks, probably three or even more, of a holiday before returning to Merseyside. That gives them just over a week to prepare for the opening day.
However, we still think that Alisson starts in goal. As a keeper, he does not need as much preparation as the outfield players.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will have a full pre-season under his best as he dropped out of the England Euro 2020 squad with injury. He should be fully fit and ready to go.
Andy Robertson and his Scotland side were knocked out of the Euros at the group stage. He will get a good pre-season in as well, so will start at left-back.
Centre-back is where things get interesting.
Who of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip will be fit? Ok, they should all be physically fit, but none of them will be 100% match fit.
That is why this is so hard to predict before we see them all in action during pre-season.
We think that van Dijk will be ok to start. There is not much to gain by easing him into the team.
Partnering him, in our opinion, will be Ibrahima Konate.
He may not be van Dijk’s partner for the entire season, but he will be the sharpest of all the contenders for this spot on the opening day.
We know that Jurgen Klopp rarely throws new signings straight into the side, but with Gomez’ and Matip’s injury history, they will need special care in their return to the side.
Nat Phillips may start if he has not left the club beforehand. He may get one last hurrah beside van Dijk if he is still knocking about, but we think he will be gone by this stage.
Midfield: Thiago the biggest guarantee
Onto the midfield, where we think that we will finally see the dream midfield of last season that never was.
Fabinho‘s lack of action at the Copa America could see him start this game.
If the 27-year-old forces himself into the Brazil side before the end of the tournament, then he probably will not start as he will need some extra rest. Yet Casemiro looks likely to retain his place as A Selecao’s No 6.
So, Fabinho will be happy to be back starting games in midfield.
Joining him in the Liverpool XI is Thiago Alcantara. Next season could well see the Spaniard prove himself as one of the best players in England and one of the best midfielders in Europe.
We saw at the back end of last campaign how well Fabinho and Thiago can work together in the centre of the park, so we are very much looking forward to more of the same from the off in 2021/22.
This depends on how far Spain go in the Euros, but we do not see them participating in the final on July 11.
The same goes for Jordan Henderson and England. If the Three Lions do reach the final, then Henderson is unlikely to feature against Norwich, but we will hedge our bets that they don’t.
A midfield three of Fabinho at 6 and Thiago and Henderson as No 8’s is one of the best on the planet. We hope to see it for the majority of next season, starting with the opening day.
There will be no room for whoever the club signs to replace Gini Wijnaldum.
However, don’t be shocked to see Curtis Jones or Naby Keita start, depending on how the internationals go.
Attack: Mane and Salah fresh and firing
Unlike Alisson and Fabinho, we think that Brazil’s prospected involvement in the Copa America final will rule Roberto Firmino out of this one.
Mohamed Salah has been denied permission to play for Egypt at the Olympic Games. He will also have a full holiday and pre-season, meaning that he will be as fit as ever.
He will start on the right-wing in the Liverpool XI.
Hopefully, Sadio Mane will get the rest he needs to get back to the player of old. He was out on his feet for the majority of last season, so a full summer off will do him the world of good.
We think that he will play off the left.
Finally, Diogo Jota will start through the middle.
We all hope and expect Liverpool to sign a new forward in the transfer window.
However, Jota is set to explode next season and will lay the foundations with a start in the first game. Again, Portugal’s involvement in the Euros could put this at risk, but they have a very tough path to the final.
He should be back in time for a decent pre-season and a place in the starting XI for Liverpool against Norwich.
Predicted Liverpool XI vs Norwich
Here is our predicted XI in full: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane
We will also take a stab at the nine-man bench, including two new boys: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Milner, Neuhaus, Keita, Jones, Firmino, Malen
There is no place for the likes of Kostas Tsimikas, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Harvey Elliott.
The chances are that at least one of the players in our prospected squad will miss out through injury. If so, one of these will be the replacement.
Be sure to come back in August to see how we did!