How Liverpool should line up against Stoke: FFT asks the experts
Former player: Mark Lawrenson (Liverpool 1981-88)
Why this line-up
“Rodgers will go 4-3-3 this season. Left-back is a massive problem but I think Joe Gomez will get the nod – he’s done great there in pre-season. For an 18-year-old he’s got a really mature footballing brain; he skips over the ground, and he sees a pass. Nathaniel Clyne looks unspectacular but steady on the right – and he’s developing a nice partnership with Jordon Ibe already.
“In the middle I’d pick Jordan Henderson on the right, James Milner on the left and Emre Can through the middle. Milner is tried and tested, he gets on with it, and you know what you’re going to get from him. Henderson runs all day and is passing better, and Can is a very good footballer – he needs to be in central midfield. He can defend and is great on the ball.
“Up front I’d play Ibe on the right. He’s going to be outstanding. He understands playing wide: he gives you width, but also comes inside and takes people on. I’d throw Christian Benteke straight in to get him game fit as soon as possible. And against Stoke, I’d support them with Adam Lallana – Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino haven’t trained much, and you don’t get much of the ball at Stoke, so they can play later.
“My main worry about Liverpool this season is them getting bullied, and they need to pick a team to avoid that.”
Blogger: Chris McLoughlin (@TheKopMagazine)
Why this line-up
“Liverpool supporters used to spend summers wondering which players would return from their holidays with perms rather than the tactical permutations their manager would adopt, but with seven new signings arriving at Anfield and a 6-1 humiliation at Stoke to avenge, all eyes will be on Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI on August 9.
“Simon Mignolet has to start as Adam Bogdan doesn’t look a better option, while the central defensive pairing of Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho remains the Reds’ strongest.
“Nathaniel Clyne is a must at right-back but with Jon Flanagan still injured and Alberto Moreno generally unconvincing, the case for throwing young Joe Gomez in at left-back has grown after an impressive pre-season.
“The need for a physical presence and goals up front means Christian Benteke is a nailed-on starter but no Daniel Sturridge should also mean no strike partner, with Philippe Coutinho and the in-form Jordon Ibe either side of him.
“What about Brazilian new boy Roberto Firmino? There are better places to be baptised into English football than Stoke away – Bournemouth at home, for instance – so a midfield trio of new skipper Jordan Henderson, the exciting James Milner and Emre Can sitting in front of the back four should prevent a 5-0 half-time deficit this time around. Hopefully.”
Why this line-up
The 4-4-2 diamond has made something of an unexpected comeback of late, and it could suit Liverpool. Emre Can is the ideal man to anchor a midfield, with Henderson and Milner doing the running in front of him and Philippe Coutinho operating as the primary creator – though Adam Lallana, Jordon Ibe and Joe Allen should all push hard for a place. A lack of width is the biggest problem with the diamond, but Clyne and Moreno can both be dangerous on the overlap, while Henderson and Milner's origin as wide players means they can drift towards the flanks when necessary.
It isn't easy to drop £42m worth of centre-backs for an 18-year-old with two dozen senior appearances to his name, but none of Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho or Tiago Ilori (or Kolo Toure, really) have pulled up any trees at Anfield, while new boy Joe Gomez doesn't lack confidence – and neither does Rodgers. Gomez's versatility across the back four could even see him play at left-back.
The hardest part may be identifying a potent strike pairing among the seven players vying for a place. Daniel Sturridge will surely start when fit but it's increasingly looking more like 'if' than 'when'. Roberto Firmino is best deployed a little deeper, which could allow him to dovetail effortlessly with countryman Coutinho. Christian Benteke gets the nod over Danny Ings purely because Rodgers will be under pressure to play the £32.5m signing – but he needs service.