Predicting Liverpool's First-Choice Starting XI for the 2012-13

Tony MabertContributor IJuly 31, 2012

Predicting Liverpool's First-Choice Starting XI for the 2012-13

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    We are now fewer than three weeks away from Liverpool's first Premier League match with Brendan Rodgers at the helm, but the new manager's overhaul seems a ways from being complete.

    So far, only one new player has arrived: Italian forward Fabio Borini from Roma.

    Many more players have been linked with moves to Anfield, with Uruguayan playmaker Gaston Ramirez and USA attacker Clinton Dempsey most prominent among them. 

    Although they are still on the payrolls of Bologna and Fulham respectively, they have been included here to give the Liverpool first team the fresh look so many of the club's fans are desperate for.

    So, on condition of those two transfers happening-which is still by no means certain-here's how the Reds face West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday August 18.

GK: Pepe Reina

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    Reina may only be Spain's third-best goalkeeper, but he remains one of the finest custodians in the Premier League.

    The 29-year-old stopper has made no secret of how much he and his family enjoy life on Merseyside, and he is two years into a six-year contract signed in 2010, so there is little danger of him going anywhere.

    As the Telegraph quoted him upon signing the aforementioned deal, Reina famously said: "My wife told me from the beginning she was more than happy here. My kids enjoy it and they have picked up the Scouse accent already. I am really proud of that. In the years ahead they will speak much more Scouse too."

RB: Glen Johnson

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    Former West Ham, Chelsea and Portsmouth full-back Johnson has attracted his fair share of criticism, most notably for his poor showing for England at the 2010 World Cup.

    However, every manager he has ever had at club level and for the national team has always picked him as first choice, so he must be doing something right.

    Last season saw the 27 year old have one of his best seasons for years, and Rodgers will be hoping he can also pop up with the odd great goal like the fine individual effort he bagged against Chelsea last season.

CB: Martin Skrtel

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    Slovakian defender Skrtel has had his dodgy moments through his Liverpool career, but last term he also had his most consistent campaign for a while.

    An uncompromising centre-back who perhaps does not fit into the Rodgers mould,  Skrtel should nevertheless be a shoo-in for a spot in the first XI.

CB: Sebastian Coates

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    Like some of the additions to the Liverpool team selected here, the omission of Daniel Agger at centre-back is very much based on transfer speculation in the media.

    The Daily Mail is one of several outlets reporting that both Manchester City and Barcelona want to sign the Dane this summer—two offers which would both be very difficult to refuse.

    With Jamie Carragher turning 35 midway through the coming season, young Coates may be brought more into the first-team picture sooner than some anticipated.

LB: Jose Enrique

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    Amid the tens of millions spent last summer on midfielders who are still yet to fully justify those fees, Jose Enrique has represented great value for money.

    Signed for just £5 million from Newcastle United a year ago, the 26 year old became an immediate first-team fixture at Anfield, playing in all but three of Liverpool's Premier League fixtures last term.

    There is still room for improvement in Enrique's game, but his qualities with the ball at his feet will be ideal for the brand of football we all expect Rodgers to try and instill in his players.

MF: Lucas Leiva

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    Once a much-maligned presence in the Liverpool team during Rafael Benitez's final years in charge, Lucas's stock rose greatly last year as his attributes and true value to the cause became more widely appreciated.

    Then he sustained an injury.

    Without the Brazilian for much of last season, Liverpool fans became all too familiar with the sight of Jay Spearing in their midfield. Every set of supporters loves a local lad made good, but even the Kop has its patience tested by him.

    Now, with Lucas back and ready for action, the Liverpool midfield will once again be well anchored.

MF: Gaston Ramirez

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    For those who have not seen the Uruguayan on a regular basis playing for Bologna, watching him play at the Olympics has been a crash course in what he is all about.

    A cultured, stylish playmaker who is a neat passer and highly adept at set pieces, Ramirez truly fits the bill for Rodgers.

    If the Liverpool manager's ambitions in the transfer market detailed on Tuesday on the club's official website include Ramirez, then the Reds are in for a very good player.

MF: Steven Gerrard

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    He may be 31 and picking up injuries with worrying regularity, but Liverpool's captain is still a must-pick when fit.

    Just as in the 2010 World Cup, Gerrard was England's best player at Euro 2012.

    If he can bring the same level of tactical discipline to his club football as he did in Poland and Ukraine this summer, Gerrard will continue to be hugely instrumental for his boyhood club.

RF: Clint Dempsey

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    Dempsey has long been a great servant for Fulham through his commitment, adaptability and his penchant for scoring important goals.

    However, last season he really took things up a notch when he scored 17 goals in the second half of the campaign. 

    The Texan has been sporadically linked with the Reds in the past, but the conditions now seem most conducive for him to swap the Thames Riverside for Merseyside.

CF: Fabio Borini

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    Rodgers's first, and so far only, signing see the Liverpool boss reunited with the young Italian he first worked with at Swansea.

    Borini never made the grade at Chelsea, but after his stint with the Swans helped them reach the Championship playoffs, and ultimately promotion, he made the move to Serie A with Roma last summer.

    Nine Serie A goals later and he's back in Britain, set to be the de facto centre-forward of a new-look Liverpool attack.

LF: Luis Suarez

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    It's strange to think that the Uruguayan livewire has only been in the Premier League for 18 months. In that time he has scored 15 league goals, including one almost from his own half, and been suspended for eight games for that unsavoury business with Patrice Evra.

    However, no one can deny his quality as an attacking weapon. Things just seem to happen whenever the forward is on the ball.

    With the equally versatile Dempsey and Borini, Suarez would be the star component in a fluid, three-man front line for Rodgers and Liverpool.