MX23RW : Tuesday, August 14 08:51:53

How Liverpool could line up in 2018-19

Ahead of their Premier League opener against West Ham United, Sports Mole looks at how Liverpool could line up in the 2018-19 season.

It is now 28 years since Liverpool were last crowned champions of England, but rarely in that time have they gone into a season with such genuine optimism as they do ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.

Back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since 2008-09 have given them a base to build off, while their swashbuckling charge to the Champions League final last season showed that they can mix it with the very best in world football.

Jurgen Klopp has subsequently been able to attract a higher level of player to the club, with Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Naby Keita among those to join in a transfer window which appears to have plugged the main holes in the team.

However, while hope is high for the upcoming campaign, Klopp is still yet to win silverware at Anfield and the club have not finished higher than fourth place since the Luis Suarez-inspired 2013-14 campaign.

Even so, many bookmakers have Liverpool as second-favourites for the title behind only Manchester City, although the Reds must overhaul the 25-point gap that separated them from the champions last season if they are to dethrone Pep Guardiola's side.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how Liverpool could line up in 2018-19.



Possible Liverpool XI 2018-19
Transfers in: Naby Keita (£48m, RB Leipzig), Fabinho (£39m, Monaco), Xherdan Shaqiri (£13m, Stoke City), Alisson (£66.8m, Roma)

Transfers out: Ovie Ejaria (loan, Rangers), Emre Can (free, Juventus), Jon Flanagan (released), Jordan Williams (free, Rochdale), Harry Wilson (loan, Derby County), Danny Ward (£12.5m, Leicester City), Ryan Kent (loan, Rangers), Shamal George (loan, Tranmere Rovers), Ben Woodburn (loan, Sheffield United), Herbie Kane (loan, Doncaster Rovers), Danny Ings (loan, Southampton)

Liverpool's goalkeeping issues finally appeared to have been addressed by the arrival of Alisson for a then world-record fee, with Loris Karius's high-profile errors in the Champions League final - and a couple of further mistakes in pre-season - ultimately forcing the Reds to spend big on a new shot-stopper. It could prove to be one of their most important acquisitions in recent years.

If Alisson has a similar impact to that made by Virgil van Dijk following his January move then Liverpool should be a much sturdier defensive outfit, and the Dutchman is likely to be joined at the heart of the defence by World Cup finalist and self-proclaimed world-class defender Dejan Lovren. Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan all provide further options for Klopp in that area, but it is Lovren and Van Dijk who ended last season as the first-choice pairing.

The right-back berth is one of interest this season, with Trent Alexander-Arnold's breakthrough campaign last term ending in a Champions League final appearance and a place at the World Cup. Alexander-Arnold established himself as first choice ahead of Gomez in 2017-18, but Liverpool now have Nathaniel Clyne back fit after a lengthy spell on the sidelines so there could be stronger competition for a place this season.

There is more certainty surrounding the opposite full-back role, though, with Andrew Robertson earning huge plaudits for his performances last term. It took the Scot time to break into the starting XI, but he is now the undisputed first choice ahead of Alberto Moreno.

It is in midfield where Liverpool have strengthened most during the summer, with Fabinho and Naby Keita coming in to bolster an area of the field which became depleted by injuries towards the end of last season. The big question for Klopp is whether to play Fabinho or Jordan Henderson in the pivot position, with the latter having earned praise for his displays there for club and country last season.

All three of those midfielders can both defend and attack, while there is further strength in depth in the shape of Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Marko Grujic. Emre Can's free transfer to Juventus was a blow, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to miss the entire season through injury, but Liverpool are not lacking in that area of the field.

Liverpool's main strength lies in the attacking third, though, with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane scoring a whopping 91 goals between them last season. Salah was the main star with 44 of those - including a record 32 in the Premier League en route to the PFA and FWA player of the year awards - but Firmino and Mane are every bit as important to the way the Reds play.

With the African Cup of Nations being held in June next year Liverpool do not need to worry about losing two of that front three to international duties, but there are backups available should they be required. Summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri has made a positive start to life at the club, while Daniel Sturridge looks rejuvenated following six goals in pre-season, although as ever questions will linger over the fitness of the striker.

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Where will Liverpool finish in the Premier League this season?

Champions
Runners-up
Top four
Outside top four
Champions
78.6%
Runners-up
14.3%
Top four
7.1%
Outside top four
0.0%
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum reacts after the 2018 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
Read Next:
Wijnaldum 'considering Liverpool exit'
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