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Liverpool 2021-22 season preview - prediction, summer signings, star player

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look ahead to Liverpool's 2021-22 campaign, including predictions, summer signings and their star player.

A huge amount of intrigue and interest will surround Liverpool heading into the 2021-22 campaign, as they look to prove that the 2020-21 season was nothing more than an injury-induced blip.

After accumulating 97 points and 99 points respectively in the previous two campaigns, being crowned champions of England, Europe and the world along the way, Jurgen Klopp's side were well off the pace they had set for themselves during a trophyless season which ultimately saw them snap up Champions League qualification with gleeful relief.

Suggestions of burnout and insufficient strengthening of the squad were abound, while others more sympathetic to Liverpool's plight offered a freakish injury crisis as the main cause for the Reds' drop off.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on August 8, 2021© Reuters

Whether one regards those as reasons or excuses, Liverpool were knocked well off course as they looked to establish themselves as one of English football's greatest teams, and they will be looking to redeem themselves by returning to the top of the pile in 2021-22.

While those around them have brought in superstars and smashed transfer records, Liverpool have been much more low-key in their transfer business and have instead focused on tying current players down to new contracts - albeit not in time to keep Georginio Wijnaldum.

The Merseysiders will hope that the returns of some key players from long-term injuries - and perhaps even more importantly the return of fans to Anfield - will lift them back to the heights of 2018-19 and 2019-20, and here Sports Mole looks ahead to their upcoming campaign.


FIXTURES

Liverpool will begin their quest to regain the Premier League title away to Norwich City - the third season in a row that they have faced a newly-promoted side in their opening game of the season.

The Reds then take on Burnley in their first home game of 2021-22, before hosting fellow title hopefuls Chelsea in their third game of the campaign.

Reigning champions Manchester City visit Anfield in early October, while Liverpool will renew hostilities with bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford later that month.

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring against Manchester United in the Premier League on May 13, 2021© Reuters

The reverse fixture against Man United will take place in March, before they take on Man City and local rivals Everton in April.

The first Merseyside derby of the season is set for late November, while the festive period will see Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United, Leicester City and Chelsea in quick succession.

There is no spell when they are due to face two 'big six' teams in a row, though, and they will finish their campaign at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers for the second time in the past four seasons.

> Click here to see all of Liverpool's 2021-22 fixtures


SUMMER SIGNINGS

Ibrahima Konate in action for Liverpool in August 2021© Reuters

In
Ibrahima Konate (£36m, RB Leipzig)

Out
Georginio Wijnaldum (free, Paris Saint-Germain)
Adam Lewis (loan, Livingston)
Sepp van den Berg (loan, Preston North End)
Paul Glatzel (loan, Tranmere Rovers)
Liam Coyle (free, Accrington Stanley)
Joe Hardy (free, Accrington Stanley)
Marko Grujic (£10.5m, Porto)
Taiwo Awoniyi (£6.75m, Union Berlin)
Harry Wilson (£12.6m, Fulham)

Total spent to date: £36m
Total received to date: £29.85m

Net transfer balance: -£6.15m


SQUAD

Liverpool's Andrew Robertson and Jordan Henderson celebrate after winning the match and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League in May 2021© Reuters

Goalkeepers: Alisson Becker, Adrian, Loris Karius, Caoimhin Kelleher

Defenders: Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez, Kostas Tsimikas, Andrew Robertson, Ben Davies, Joel Matip, Rhys Williams, Nathaniel Phillips, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Neco Williams

Midfielders: Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ben Woodburn

Forwards: Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Takumi Minamino, Diogo Jota, Divock Origi, Sheyi Ojo, Harvey Elliott

> Click here for full details of Liverpool's 2021-22 squad


STRONGEST XI

LIV XI 2021-22


STAR PLAYER - VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk applauds the fans as he is substituted on August 8, 2021© Reuters

Widely credited with being one of the final pieces of the jigsaw to turn Liverpool into title winners at long last, Virgil van Dijk's absence for the vast majority of last term was a major reason why they fell short of pre-season expectations.

The Dutchman spent nine months on the sidelines with a serious knee ligament injury, but made his long-awaited return during pre-season and should be fit and firing for the start of the new campaign.

Van Dijk's centre-back partner Joe Gomez is also now back from a similar long-term injury, meaning that Liverpool will again have the defensive base on which their 2019-20 title triumph was built.

The Reds boast plenty of attacking talent, and there is no doubt that Mohamed Salah was the key man last season, but the return of the 2018-19 PFA Players' Player of the Year could be the difference between a title challenge and another top-four push.


MANAGER - JURGEN KLOPP

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gives instructions to his players on August 8, 2021© Reuters

Jurgen Klopp's arrival at Anfield in October 2015 was immediately heralded as a perfect fit for both manager and club, with comparisons to legendary boss Bill Shankly - the father of the modern Liverpool - not taking long to surface.

The German has gone a long way to living up to those lofty expectations too, taking Liverpool to the Champions League final in 2017-18, going one better to lift the trophy one year later and then finally ending the 30-year wait for league title number 19 in 2019-20.

Under Klopp's stewardship the Merseysiders have been crowned champions of England, Europe and the world, while Klopp himself as firmly established himself as one of the best managers on the planet.

Indeed, he was named The Best FIFA Men's Coach in 2019 and 2020, and with him in charge Liverpool will always fancy their chances of pushing for honours.

Now entering his seventh season at the Anfield helm, there were murmurs last term about the 54-year-old's future, although he has consistently vowed to see out his current deal, which expires in 2024.


LAST SEASON

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk collides with Everton's Jordan Pickford in the Premier League on October 17, 2020© Reuters

Liverpool's 2020-21 campaign was defined by injuries as they surrendered their Premier League title without mounting a particularly strong defence of the crown they had waited so long to capture.

However, while third place would have been considered a disappointment at the beginning of the campaign, the debilitating centre-back shortage they suffered meant that they were content to qualify for the Champions League in the end.

Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip - the only three senior centre-backs Liverpool began the season with - suffered long-term injuries, while their back-ups and even the back-ups' back-ups spent time on the sidelines too. Not to mention the knock-on effect of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson being taken out of their influential midfield roles to plug the gaps.

Despite Van Dijk suffering his season-ending injury in just their fifth league game of the campaign, and Gomez joining him in the treatment room the following month, Liverpool still topped the table heading into the New Year - their only defeat in their opening 16 games coming courtesy of an unfathomable 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Aston Villa, which occurred even before their injury woes.

However, the Reds collapsed during the early months of 2021, losing eight and winning just three of their opening 12 league games of the calendar year, in addition to being knocked out in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

There were also early exits from the EFL Cup (fourth round) and Champions League (quarter-final), but Liverpool managed to string together a 10-match unbeaten league run to finish the season, picking up 26 of the 30 points on offer to secure third place.

Liverpool's Alisson celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on May 16, 2021© Reuters

Undoubtedly the highlight of the season was an incredible last-minute winning goal from goalkeeper Alisson Becker against West Bromwich Albion, which kept Liverpool on course for a top-four finish when any dropped points could have left them playing catch-up with only two games remaining.

Klopp's side did also break a club record by going 68 home league games unbeaten - the second-longest such run in English football history - but in a remarkable turn of fortunes they then lost six in a row at Anfield for the first time ever after their unbeaten streak was ended by Burnley on January 21.

In the end, Liverpool finished 17 points adrift of champions Manchester City, and a whopping 30 points short of their tally from the title-winning 2019-20 season.


PREDICTION

Liverpool have been utterly outgunned by some of their main title contenders as far as the transfer window is concerned, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea all spending big and strengthening in key areas.

However, the returns of Van Dijk and Gomez in particular will be like two major new signings for the Reds, and their last two seasons at anything close to full strength have seen them accumulate a whopping 196 points in total.

The fact that Man City won the title with just 86 points last season - and were still 12 points clear of second place - will give Liverpool optimism that a return to their best could bring with it another Premier League crown.

 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after the match on May 8, 2021© Reuters

Couple that with supporters returning to Anfield - a factor which Liverpool were missing as keenly as any team last season given how much Klopp's style feeds off the fans - and there is every reason to regard the Merseysiders as serious title contenders once again in 2021-22.

The top four is likely to be even more competitive this time around, though, and if Man City add Harry Kane to their ranks then their position as favourites will only be strengthened.

Therefore, while Liverpool will expect to improve greatly from the 2020-21 campaign, they may still have to settle for second place behind the defending champions.

VERDICT: Second

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France's Ibrahima Konate in action in March 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City22182254134156
2Liverpool21136255183745
3Chelsea23128346182844
4West Ham UnitedWest Ham22114741301137
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs1911352622436
6Arsenal2011273325835
7Manchester UnitedMan Utd2110563530535
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves209471715231
9Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2161142222029
10Leicester CityLeicester197483336-325
11Crystal Palace215973031-124
12Southampton215972533-824
13Aston Villa2072112732-523
14Brentford2265112536-1123
15Leeds UnitedLeeds205782439-1522
16Everton1954102434-1019
17Norwich CityNorwich2244141345-3216
18Watford2042142340-1714
19Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2019102043-2312
20Burnley171881627-1111

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