Liverpool should be aiming for top-four consolidation in the Premier League

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If you had given any Liverpool fan the option of their team finishing in the top two of the Premier League at the start of last season, they would have bitten off not only your hand, but your entire arm and possibly your shoulder too.

As it was, however, the capitulation at Crystal Palace marked a rather disappointing end to one of the most exciting campaigns in recent history for Reds’ fans.

The question now is can they reach similar heady heights this season? At first glance it seems unlikely. With their closest direct rivals from last season, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all spending heavily already this window, Manchester United appointing a coach who is used to success in Louis van Gaal, and Liverpool losing talismanic striker Luis Suarez, this would appear to be a tricky campaign for the Reds. However, appearances may be deceptive.

Strong spine

There is still a vast array of talents on display on Merseyside, and, whilst the new signings may take some time to properly bed in, it is the spine of the team that is already there that may allow the Reds to push for the top four or even higher again this season.

It is dangerous to read too much into pre-season, but Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho in particular have both been in sensational form whilst Daniel Sturridge has already shown the goalscorer’s touch that made him so prolific last season.

The form of Suarez and Sturridge last season, along with the system Rodgers chose to play, meant that he was left with a particular abundance of talent to fill the no. 10 positio  and was often forced to choose between Coutinho and Sterling being on the pitch at any one time.

Added luxury 

Now, however, he has the luxury of being able to field both players in the same team and Coutinho’s link-up play with Sturridge in particular has been the highlight of the pre-season for many Liverpool fans.

His sublime flick against Borussia Dortmund was testament to his skill and vision, and this is something that Sturridge greatly appreciates with his ability to run in behind defender. It should be a fruitful goalscoring pairing. Add to this the creativity of Adam Lallana and the speed of Lazard Markovic and Liverpool still possess a frightening attack.

It is in defence, however, where most work needed to be done. The burden on them should be eased by a change of system and Rodgers not having to accommodate two world-class strikers, but there have also been welcome additions in terms of personnel.

Mamdou Sakho also looks to be slowly getting back to his best and should form a solid partnership with Dejan Lovren when the time comes. If they can concede even 10 or perhaps 15 fewer goals this season, Liverpool could well match their achievements of last term.

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Liverpool’s counter attacking style is perfect for the Champions League and, if the draw is kind to them, they could get out of the group stages and go far in the tournament. A Wednesday night at Anfield is a tricky game for any opponent.

For now their objective should be to get out of their group and consolidate their place in the top four, as this should be achievable given their newfound depth, but come Christmas they may well be able to evaluate and aim even higher.

Prediction: 3rd

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