Liverpool had the Premier League title within their grasp heading into the final weeks of last season. Unfortunately for the Reds, a loss to Chelsea followed by a draw with Crystal Palace allowed Manchester City to take control and eventually raise the trophy.
Although the disappointment of failing to capitalise on that opportunity certainly exists, the campaign still featured more positives than negatives. They proved capable of seriously challenging their more-hyped counterparts and qualified for the Champions League.
Now the club is getting its first look at the road it will need to travel to win the league championship next season. Let's check out the complete list of fixtures for Brendan Rodgers' side, which features a difficult opening few weeks.
2014-15 Liverpool Schedule
|Aug. 16||3 p.m. BST||Southampton (h)|
|Aug. 23||3 p.m. BST||Man City (a)|
|Aug. 30||3 p.m. BST||Tottenham (a)|
|Sept. 13||3 p.m. BST||Aston Villa (h)|
|Sept. 20||3 p.m. BST||West Ham (a)|
|Sept. 27||3 p.m. BST||Everton (h)|
|Oct. 4||3 p.m. BST||West Brom (h)|
|Oct. 18||3 p.m. BST||QPR (a)|
|Oct. 25||3 p.m. BST||Hull (h)|
|Nov. 1||3 p.m. GMT||Newcastle (a)|
|Nov. 8||3 p.m. GMT||Chelsea (h)|
|Nov. 22||3 p.m. GMT||Crystal Palace (a)|
|Nov. 29||3 p.m. GMT||Stoke (h)|
|Dec. 2||7.45 p.m. GMT||Leicester (a)|
|Dec. 6||3 p.m. GMT||Sunderland (h)|
|Dec. 13||3 p.m. GMT||Man United (a)|
|Dec. 20||3 p.m. GMT||Arsenal (h)|
|Dec. 26||3 p.m. GMT||Burnley (a)|
|Dec. 28||3 p.m. GMT||Swansea (h)|
|Jan. 1||3 p.m. GMT||Leicester (h)|
|Jan. 10||3 p.m. GMT||Sunderland (a)|
|Jan. 17||3 p.m. GMT||Aston Villa (a)|
|Jan. 31||3 p.m. GMT||West Ham (h)|
|Feb. 7||3 p.m. GMT||Everton (a)|
|Feb. 10||8 p.m. GMT||Tottenham (h)|
|Feb. 21||3 p.m. GMT||Southampton (a)|
|Feb. 28||3 p.m. GMT||Man City (h)|
|Mar. 3||8 p.m. GMT||Burnley (h)|
|Mar. 14||3 p.m. GMT||Swansea (a)|
|Mar. 21||3 p.m. GMT||Man United (h)|
|Apr. 4||3 p.m. BST||Arsenal (a)|
|Apr. 11||3 p.m. BST||Newcastle (h)|
|Apr. 18||3 p.m. BST||Hull (a)|
|Apr. 25||3 p.m. BST||West Brom (a)|
|May 2||3 p.m. BST||QPR (h)|
|May 9||3 p.m. BST||Chelsea (a)|
|May 16||3 p.m. BST||Crystal Palace (h)|
|May 24||3 p.m. BST||Stoke (a)|
Qualifying for the Champions League is one of the hallmarks of a successful season. It also helps when it comes to gaining leverage in the transfer market. Yet, there's a minor downside and it's the added matches to an already busy schedule.
Not only will Liverpool compete in the Premier League and Europe's top club competition, but the League Cup and FA Cup are also on the slate. And for a side that doesn't feature as much depth as some of its rivals, all of the matches will force a delicate balancing act from Rodgers.
The 41-year-old manager, who's quickly establishing himself as one of the best the Premier League has to offer, has done a tremendous job of building the squad into a contender. But next season will test him like never before.
You couldn't tell there was added pressure in comments from him that were passed along by the club's official site on his second anniversary with the side:
I never get too carried away—that's the point. I never get too disappointed when we lose, and I never get too carried away when we win.
It's just trying to keep the highs and lows in football, of which there are many, on an even keel, because from one game to the next and from one day to the next, you just have to be ready and focused.
It's that level-headed attitude that has allowed Rodgers to brush aside any early criticism. He believed in the system he was putting in place at Anfield and it started to pay off in a major way last season.
Now it's time to see whether Liverpool can take it up another notch and start capturing trophies on a regular basis.
The strike force is good enough to do exactly that. The combination of Luis Suarez, the reigning Player of the Year, and Daniel Sturridge was nearly unstoppable at times last season and should have no trouble getting back on the same page.
Rodgers worked quickly to add Rickie Lambert for another option up front. Again, with the added matches, any extra reliable players will come in handy.
Lambert has been one of those most productive players in the Premier League over the past two seasons, as noted by WhoScored.com:
Rickie Lambert: Only Suarez, Rooney, Van Persie & Gerrard have registered more PL goals + assists in the last 2 seasons than Lambert (43)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 2, 2014
There are more question marks in the middle of the pitch.
Steven Gerrard will continue to serve as the anchor in the center and Philippe Coutinho flashed immense potential, but there are a lot of young players who will need to elevate their level of play like Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling to win a Premier League title and compete in Europe.
The arrival of Emre Can from Germany will boost Rodgers' options, capable of adding a classy touch in central midfield or at left-back for the Reds.
Where will Liverpool finish in the Premier League next season?
At the back, it's more about staying healthy and finding some consistency. Rodgers was constantly forced to shuffle the deck along the back line throughout last season, which made it difficult for any group to establish chemistry.
Injuries are always going to remain a factor, but if Liverpool can at least keep a core four together for a majority of the time, there should be noticeable improvement defensively. Simon Mignolet should also take another step forward in goal in his second season with the club.
Ultimately, Liverpool possess enough top-end talent to make another run at the Premier League title. That said, a lot will depend on how Rodgers decides to handle the playing time with so many competitions to juggle.
There will be some tough decisions along the way when it comes to resting players, which could hurt their title hopes. But as whole, the progress should continue, especially if the Reds are able to make a couple more key signings this summer.