Click here for our comprehensive Premier League season preview.
Saturday, 13th August, 2011,
1925 hours (+0530 GMT), Live on ESPN India
As you are reading this preview, the Anfield contingent is brimming with smiles at their new team. We are finally seeing John Henry’s promises reach fruition and the squad that is building up at Liverpool FC has been well and truly taken note of. It has been a summer of heavy spending and perhaps, money well spent. Having brought in the last season’s best players from Sunderland, Blackpool, Newcastle and Aston Villa, Dalglish is fostering one mighty squad for the upcoming campaign. Regarding the much worried deadwood at the club, well, that is clearing out too.
Koncheskey and Jovanovic have so far departed the club for their – and the club’s – own good and with time still remaining in the transfer window, one can expect a few more departures from the red side of Liverpool. The King is rebuilding his empire.
Sunderland have surely bolstered their squad prior to the season with the acquisition of Manchester United veterans O’Shea and Wes Brown which was followed by the signings of teenager Connor Wickham from Ipswich, David Vaughan from Blackpool, South Korean Ji Dong-Won, and midfielders Craig Gardner and Sebastian Larrson from Birmingham City; and recently, young winger James McClean from Derry City.
The Black Cats did look a stronger squad last season with new arrivals Sessegnon and Gyan and Bruce can only expect his squad to perform better with the addition of these new faces. However, an away game at Anfield first up is not quite the fixture the Sunderland boss would have hoped for, for the simple reason that he may not be able to see a cohesive Sunderland unit with plenty of new recruits. Nonetheless, the batteries are always charged at the beginning of a new season and Bruce would not really get too skeptical of travelling to the north-west.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Amidst all the excitement, one man’s absence is still noticeable – Steven Gerrard. The player is out till September with a groin injury and will be missing a bunch of Liverpool’s fixtures including the all important game against Arsenal in the second week of the new campaign. Besides the skipper, England right-back Glen Johnson will also be missing the Sunderland game after picking up a hamstring injury in the friendly against Valencia. The third first team player who will be sitting out the opening fixture is Martin Skrtel. The defender who started every Premier League last season is out due to a calf injury and to everyone’s dismay, no definitive date is set aside for his return. Uruguay striker Luis Suarez returned late following his Copa America campaign and although at first it looked unlikely that he will start, the player seems to have energized himself and is prepared to be included in the squad for the game against Sunderland.
A lot of football pundits have pondered about Liverpool’s possible formation this season. While it is safe to admit that Kenny is not going to resort to one formation, he would most likely start off with the players who will create the most impact. Liverpool’s strength on the left was weak for a long time but with Downing and latest recruit Enrique now in the squad, Dalglish would surely want to include them in the starting line-up for one sole reason – Andy Carroll. The monstrous Geordie has had a fantastic pre-season having scored three goals. To add to this, he has also recovered from his injury which kept him out for much part of last season since his move from Tyneside.
We might be looking at a probable 4-4-2 formation with Downing and Kuyt on either flanks, and Lucas and Adam making up the midfield. Although a decision on Suarez will most likely be taken at the last moment, the player’s flair and work-rate is such that he will make it to the roster. Coming to defense, expect Kelly to start on the right with Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger coming together at the centre of the backline. Enrique, if declared match-fit, will start but expect Fabio Aurelio to take up the spot, for now.
Probable Starting Lineup: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Kelly, Aurelio, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Kuyt, Suarez, Carroll
Probable Starting Lineups
Steve Bruce will board the bus without John O’Shea as the player is ruled out on account of a hamstring injury he suffered in the team’s pre-season friendly against Armenia Bielefeld. Joining him in treatment would be midfielder David Meyler. Meyler suffered a horrific knee injury back in January and hasn’t featured since. The player is now undergoing treatment alongside some light training with the team. The squad otherwise looks in good shape for Bruce for the opening of the season.
13 million pounds were paid for former Ipswich striker Connor Wickham. A player touted to have a bright future ahead of him, Bruce will surely bet on Wickham to put up a solid display if not to score at Anfield. Another player with a boasting height, Wickham will surely be expected to meet the end of crosses coming in from either flanks; speaking of which, Kieron Richardson and Sebastian Larrson are the most likely starters on the left and right flanks, respectively. Club captain Lee Cattermole and new recruit David Vaughan will most probably make up the center of the park. Defensively, last season’s duo Bramble and Ferdinand would start at the centre of the park while Michael Turner and Phil Bardsley will occupy the full-back spots on either side.
Probable Starting Lineup: Gordon, Bardsley, Turner, Ferdinand, Bramble, Larrson, Richardson, Cattermole, Vaughan, Gyan, Wickham
Liverpool and Sunderland have a lot of new faces for the 2011/12 season and both managers will have to be very shrewd in picking their squad for this fixture. Expect a lot of goals at Anfield this weekend and if Dalglish gets it right, then the Kop will be reveling in joy.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For:
Stewart Downing (Liverpool)
Will he bring Sunderland down?
Downing has had a good pre-season so far and is more than ready to prove his worth at a top club like Liverpool. A lot of doubts were raised over the money spent on him but the player has stated that he will pay little attention to his price tag and more attention towards helping the team contest for laurels this season. We believe he will stand out against the Black Cats.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Sunderland
Confidence is high at Anfield and after finding a home fixture to start off with after so many years, Liverpool will be looking to walk away with a resounding victory and give the players and fans more to hope for as the new season unfolds.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From the Past