After a stellar performance in Liverpool’s friendly against Dortmund, topped with a clean sheet, it now falls to Brendan Rodgers to decide who is going to make the cut to start for his defence in the opening fixture against Southampton this weekend.
Many would see Liverpool’s defence that played so well against Dortmund as the ideal starting back four for the Premier League opener but, given the transfer market’s continuously open state during August it is not quite as simple as that, and there are some permutations that could yet occur if more reinforcements come in before the weekend.
As such, let us begin with the simpler positions to predict. One of them will certainly be Dejan Lovren. After an imperious performance against the Germans at the weekend, which drew praise from manager, fans and fellow players alike, Lovren has played himself straight into Rodgers’s starting 11 for the match against his former employers.
It is who plays alongside Lovren that poses more of an open question, and the answer essentially depends on Lovren. Though he is naturally right footed, he is more accustomed to playing on the left of the centre back pairing, though he can play on either side.
Sahko: Also in?
The question is whether Lovren is yet ready to play on the right and the answer will determine whether he plays alongside Sakho or Skrtel. Rodgers will probably opt for a Lovren-Sakho partnership in the long run, but this weekend may be too soon for Lovren to comfortably make the switch.
The full-back position presents more of a problem in terms of prediction. Javi Manquillo also impressed against Dortmund, and probably did just enough to justify himself as a starter on the right this weekend, looking good going both forward and back.
This may be complicated by the rumoured impending arrival of Alberto Moreno from Sevilla. Johnson has been fairly abject for much of the pre-season but Rodgers appears to have some level of faith in him and may be loath to drop him from the team entirely.
If Moreno does come in Johnson may well move over to right back and replace Manquillo to accommodate Moreno, or he may stay at left back if Moreno does not arrive or if he is deemed not ready to start.
The team that starts this weekend then, will most likely have the same look in defence as the team that brushed aside Dortmund on Sunday. In the long run it is probable that they will switch to a back four of Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho and Moreno once all the transfer business is completed and players are fully settled in.