It might seem that we are months away from EPL soccer but we get an early preview from a handful of July friendlies in the USA. For Liverpool, that starts on July 21 at Toronto.
Since that's less than two weeks away (!!), here's my opening day Liverpool opening day lineup along with a handful of key changes for the 2012 / 12 season.
A few quick notes before diving in:
- Liverpool calendar of fixtures is available here
- Here's the Liverpool first-team squad as of July 8, 2012 (image, right)
- I'm only using players in the squad as of July 8, 2012
Maybe a few surprises but assuming everyone is healthy and ready to go on August 18, here's what the core / starting eleven should look like:
- P. Reina: No surprise here. Reina should enjoy the up-tempo pace Rodgers will try to set with the team, starting from the back.
- L. Enrique (LB): Showed good pace last season with clever runs. Will need a schedule of regular days off to keep fresh.
- G. Johnson (RB): Loves to go forward and still has the pace to keep up with speedy wingers. Will also need a steady diet of rest to stay fresh.
- M. Skrtel (CB): The rock.
- D. Agger (CB): Maybe the first surprise of the bunch. Push Agger in front of Skrtel so there's a flat-three in the back with Agger acting as a lanky but effective pivot. More freedom to go forward. Attack!
- J. Cole (LM): Surprise number two? Not for me - with heaps more confidence and a burning desire to not be a Liverpool failure, this will be a good season.
- S. Downing (RM): Can play either side but who cares? Just get the ball to the big man. With padding in the back, won't get exposed on runs forward.
- L. Leiva (CB): Control of the defensive midfield. Never liked this his play, until he was injured. Then realized what a key player he is.
- S. Gerrard (CB): Get back to the Captain Fantastic of old. Get forward, distribute, score.
- L. Suarez (F): Unleash the hounds!
- A. Carroll (F): Surprise number three? Give him his due and get him in the lineup. An extra attacker only helps Suarez and his flick-ons are a thing of beauty. Go on, big man.
This is where the manager shines. Liverpool will need a deep bench of players that continue to push for a starting spot. Some of these players will start to give the top eleven a rest, others are perfect for adding a bit of spark in the 60th minute.
- B. Jones (GK) (for P. Reina): I don't have faith in Doni and I'm hooked on Jones' story. Won't get many opportunities but a backup with confidence.
- J. Robinson (LB) (for L. Enrique): "Jack Robinson is a record breaking left-back of whom big things are expected over the next few years."
- J. Flanagan (RB) (for G. Johnson): Had a wretched few games last year but he's young, quick, and smart, and will do better this year.
- J. Carragher (CB) (for M. Skrtel): He won't get many starts but is the perfect player for this position off the bench.
- S. Coates (CB) (for D. Agger): Showed good skill and confidence last year. Will fill the attacking / pivot role well when called on.
- J. Henderson (LM) (for J. Cole): I'm not impressed but if there's talent there, hopefully we'll see it. Will probably alternate with Cole for the starting spot.
- R. Sterling (RM) (for S. Downing): Usually plays up top, but this would give him a bit more freedom to cut in and dazzle with his speed. Not a lot of pressure to cross.
- C. Adam / J. Spearing (CB) (for L. Leiva): If there's one wish for this season, it's that Leiva stays healthy. I'd probably go with Adam before Spearing, and would instruct them both NOT TO SHOOT.
- J. Shelvey (CB) (for S. Gerrard): He has a creative streak and could shine this season. Will likely have a handful of starts during the season to keep the captain fresh.
- C. Bellamy (F) (for L. Suarez): I don't like Bellamy out on the wings. He needs to be up front, causing havoc. A terrific sub in the 70th minute.
- D. Pacheco / N. Eccleston (F) (for A. Carroll): Pacheco was loaned out last year but I hope he gets back in the squad this year - a thunder of a shot with nice pace. Eccleston needs a bit more time but would be a good, fast change from Carroll.
Time to get caught up on all things Liverpool.