Brendan Rodgers is preparing Liverpool for life without Luis Suarez, and on Sunday night Reds fans were treated to a glimpse of the future when the boss started Lazar Markovic alongside Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling during the 1-0 win over Olympiakos.
It was Sterling who struck early—steering home a close-range strike after five minutes—but it was the overall play of his two other forwards that excited Rodgers. He praised a sharper-looking Sturridge, who is expected to lead Liverpool's attacking charge next season, reported by Chris Shaw of LFCTour.com:
I've seen a difference in Daniel since he came back. He has obviously got confidence from the World Cup and his season last year. I think he's ready to take on the mantle. He got 20-odd goals last season so he's a striker of great value.
Markovic also played an exciting role on his debut. Rodgers believes the young Serb will continue his development at Anfield, despite missing a chance to double the side's lead in Chicago. "Markovic will only get better and better," said Rodgers, per Shaw. "He showed great strength when he burst through and hopefully later on when he picks up that speed and sharpness in his game, he'll go on and finish that."
It's certainly been something of a frustrating time for Rodgers' attacking plans. Suarez's departure leaves the meticulous manager trying to find 31 goals during the next Premier League season, a gap which looked to be plugged by Queens Park Rangers hitman Loic Remy.
Unfortunately for the club and player, a problem with the Frenchman's medical forced Liverpool to cancel a bargain £8.5 million transfer, reported by David Maddock of the Mirror. "We are disappointed for the player but we have to move on," said Rodgers, per the Daily Mail's Dominic King. "We have made a decision."
Whether this decision beckons another striker remains to be seen. Although Rodgers enjoyed watching the aforementioned firepower, and has Rickie Lambert to specialise as a target man, another fast-paced out-and-out goalscorer wouldn't go amiss.
Sturridge is at his sharpest when being fed quick balls from forwards who continue their runs, and if Sterling or Markovic fail to inspire, will want another elusive type to add further spring. Rodgers has previously indicated he will only sign players who can genuinely improve the team or offer Liverpool something different, per beIN SPORTS.
He maintained he will be happy if two defenders, presumably full-backs, are the final additions this summer. "Very [happy]. I think in the midfield area and out wide we would still have a lot," said Rodgers, per Maddock. "We shall see but of course you want to improve and if the right ones are available we will look to bring them in too."
Dejan Lovren was announced as Liverpool's latest signing late on Sunday night, when his arrival was revealed by the club's official Twitter feed:
The Croatian is Liverpool's third summer signing from Southampton and the fifth new arrival during a preseason of building for Rodgers. He joins Lambert, Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Markovic in a squad that is brimming with options for a manager who likes to tailor his team to every individual task.
Kristian Walsh of the Liverpool Echo noted Markovic as a "diamond to be smoothed," saying the "squad already has a depth to it not seen at Anfield in years." This is something the manager has consciously put in place ahead of next season's Champions League return, as Liverpool's challenge across four competitions ensures the squad needs to be reinforced.
Some will question the incoming numbers, but vitally, Rodgers is picking up talent who have proven quality that can still improve. All of his signings enjoyed breakout 2013-14 seasons in one way or another, but all can continue to sharpen their game with a manager who urges his stars to express themselves.
Suarez may be gone, but Liverpool enter the upcoming campaign as one of the Premier League's most exciting and natural attacking outfits the division has to offer.