Predicting Liverpool FC's Opening Day Starting XI
On August 13th, 2011, Liverpool FC will open their season in a highly anticipated match against Sunderland. While Sunderland are not a perennial force in the English Premier League, all LFC fans around the world are eager to see what Liverpool's new signings can produce.
Having spent just about £45 million this summer, and another £55 or so million in January, Fenway Sports Group was injected a brand new transfer policy which Liverpool has not seen in many years, especially under the Hicks/Gillett era. They have emphasised the need for young, British signings, which can be seen in the acquisitions of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.
With less than two weeks until the start of the season, here is Kenny Dalglish's projected starting XI.
GK: Pepe Reina
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Since signing from Villarreal in July 2005, Pepe Reina has been the first-choice goalkeeper for Liverpool FC and developed into one of the best keepers in the EPL. He is one of the first names on the team sheet for Dalglish, and is one of the leaders in the dressing room for the Reds.
Despite coming off a hernia operation in the offseason, Reina started in the recent friendly against Valerenga, and should be good to go on Opening Day.
RB: Glen Johnson
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Glen Johnson, a first-choice England international, is a staple of the Liverpool defence, and will surely be on the team sheet on August 13th. Johnson loves to get forward, perhaps more than defend, and, while sometimes a liability at the back, is one of the best attacking fullbacks in England.
While facing competition from youngster Martin Kelly, Johnson should beat him out and start at right-back against Sunderland.
CB: Jamie Carragher
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Jamie Carragher, the leader and commander of the Reds defence, will most likely captain the side on the 13th, as captain Steven Gerrard will not return to the side until September. Carragher is a tough, hard-nosed defender who plays with passion and heart for Liverpool.
Carra is a Liverpool legend, and still, at age 33, is one of the first names on Kenny Dalglish's team sheet.
CB: Daniel Agger
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I'm sure many LFC fans will be pleased to see the picture to the left, and that picture describes Daniel Agger perfectly—a big, physical defender who isn't afraid to really stick it to someone (as he is to the deserving Torres in the picture to the left.)
After struggling with injuries over past few years, Agger seems to be in good health and form, even scoring two goals against Valeranga in the recent friendly. The Dane loves to come forward, and has a bullet of a left foot, but is always a reliable partner for Carragher at the back. Another choice at the back here would be Slovakian Martin Skrtel.
LB: Jose Enrique
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After a summer of speculation regarding a potential transfer of Enrique to Liverpool, it appears progress was made in negotiations today, as The Mirror, Telegraph, Times and Daily Mail are all reporting that Liverpool have won the race to sign Jose Enrique from Newcastle. Reported fees are in the range of £5 million, which for a quality left-back like Enrique is a bargain.
Liverpool have had trouble finding a reliable left-back ever since the departure of John Arne Riise. Players like Fabio Aurelio, Andrea Dossena and Emiliano Insua have graced the role, and the potential signature of Enrique should bring stability to the position.
CM: Jordan Henderson
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Jordan Henderson, an England international and £16 million signing, is a versatile central midfielder who will most likely take Gerrard's spot in the lineup while he is out injured. He spent most of the summer at the U-21 European Championships, starring as England's central midfielder. He is also the potential long-term replacement for Gerrard.
Big expectations are on Henderson due to the high transfer fee, and only time will tell if it was money well spent.
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Lucas will sit in the middle of the midfield three, and is a defensive, ball-winning midfielder. The Brazilian really came onto the Anfield scene this past season, emerging as a fan favourite after years of disappointment.
He spent the summer with Brazil at the Copa America, so his availability is suspect, but if he is unavailable, Liverpool fans can expect to see either Jay Spearing or Raul Meireles take his spot in midfield.
CM: Charlie Adam
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Liverpool reportedly paid an initial fee of £8 million which, for one of the best midfielders in the Premiership this past season, is a huge bargain. Adam will most likely feature as a deep-lying playmaker, in the mold of a Xabi Alonso, zipping passes around the pitch.
He has a sweet left foot, and is a dead-ball specialist, with Sir Alex Ferguson saying, "His (Adam's) corners are worth £10 alone."
RW: Dirk Kuyt
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Dirk Kuyt will most likely start on the right flank of Liverpool's front three on Opening Day. Kuyt, a tireless worker, is a threat going forward and is also reliable going backwards, which will allow Glen Johnson to bomb forward freely.
The Dutchman will most likely be replaced by Luis Suarez once he returns to the lineup after spending the summer at the Copa America leading Uruguay to victory.
ST: Andy Carroll
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Andy Carroll is a big, big man. But Carroll, while a tremendous threat in the air, is not only a target man, as Carroll is reasonably quick and quite good on the ground. The England international, who was bought for £35 million in January from Newcastle, will benefit from Liverpool's recent signing of Stewart Downing, who was one of the best wingers in the EPL this past year.
Carroll will need to carry the load and lead the front line for Liverpool until Suarez returns, which will most likely be on the bench against Arsenal on the 20th of August.
LW: Stewart Downing
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Downing, another England international, possesses a great left foot, and will surely deliver many crosses to Carroll this upcoming season. The versatile Downing can play on the left, and is capable of blowing by defenders using pure speed or his variety of tricks, or cut in from the right.
Signed for £20 million from Aston Villa this summer, Downing will provide Liverpool with some much-needed natural width from the left side.