The Defending Champions Season Preview

It has been less than twenty-four hours since Bayern Munich defeated Paris Saint-Germain and became the defending European champions in place of the Reds. Yet the new season is already rapidly approaching, such is the truncated nature of summer thanks to the interruption provided to the campaign by the Coronavirus pandemic. It is something that will doubtless continue to have an effect on live sport, if not for the competitors themselves then in the way that matches and events unfold without crowds. Everyone is hopeful that supporters will be back in the ground before the end of the season, but I have to admit I’ve seen nothing to make me believe that that will be the case. Regardless, the plan at present is for matches to continue even though there’ll be no fans in the ground to watch them, so the likelihood is that all four competitions we’re in will be completed.

Pre-season is decidedly shorted for the Reds, having already played one of our two pre-season games. That’s ignoring the fact that the Community Shield is essentially a glorified friendly, of course. The difference is that you get actual silverware for winning it and it would be nice to reclaim it after having not won it since 2006. It would set us up nicely for what’s to come and feed into the idea that the lads want to keep on winning now they’ve got a taste for it. The obvious question that I want to ask now is how the rest of the campaign will pan out once the proper football gets back underway. We know that the Premier League will begin with a match against newly promoted Leeds United and that we’ll be in Pot 1 for the Champions League draw, but we have no idea how Jürgen Klopp plans to use the domestic cup competitions, so I’ve had a think.

The Premier League & Champions League

I think that Jürgen Klopp will look at what we’ve got to play for this season as two distinct and separate things. I think that he’ll put the Premier League and the Champions League into a category labelled ‘important’ and that the domestic cups will largely be treated as a chance for him to give his squad some playing time. The main reason for that is that I think that the German will fancy his chances of defending the Premier League title, given the intense nature of the schedule. It will be played out as though in the midst of a European campaign, with a match every three days or so. That is something that this Liverpool team has now got used to, learning how to get matches across the line irrespective of form. Unlike some, I do think that Chelsea and Manchester United will be part of the conversation for the title, even if they’ll ultimately fall short.

The key question is which Manchester City side is going to turn up. Will it be the one that notched up one hundred and ninety-eight points across two seasons? Or will it be the team that lost nine times in the Premier League campaign just gone? If cracks are starting to show in Pep Guardiola’s side then the Reds could be there to exploit them. That said, there were a number of games during the 2019-2020 season when we came within a whisker of dropping points, so we’ll have to have the same sort of fortune this time around to post a ninety-plus points tally. When it comes to Europe, it remains to be seen whether it will be played out in the ‘old’ style or whether UEFA will once again opt for one-legged knockout matches. If it’s the latter then I would fancy the Reds to go all the way to the final, whilst if it’s the former then it might just be a game or two too far for us.

The Domestic Cups

Whether supporters like it or not, there is a simple truth in the fact that Jürgen Klopp seems to completely despise the domestic cup competitions. I think he realised that the League Cup in particular was a daft tournament when we had to play two-legged semi-finals during the 2015-2016 campaign and ended up losing to Manchester City on penalties anyway. With the FA Cup, he seems to have adopted an attitude of thinking that we either get knocked out early doors or we try and win it, but the sides that we’ve been drawn against meant that he had to take it more seriously than he’d have liked. When you’re going up against Wolves, Everton and Chelsea in the early rounds whilst City seem to draw the Dog & Duck every week, it’s difficult not to feel as though taking it seriously is a waste of time. The teams we’re drawn against might dictate his approach.

I’d be very surprised if the manager’s approach to both the FA Cup and League Cup isn’t one of barely disguised disdain again this time around. That being said, he’ll also want to give his fringe players a chance to prove themselves and I think we’ve got a few lads that are more than capable of doing so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the likes of Adrian, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott asked to be the cup team stalwarts, with Rhian Brewster joining that list if we decide against sending him out on loan again. Should we add another couple of players to the squad alongside Kostas Tsimikas, say in the form of a centre-back and Ismaïla Sarr, then we’ll have a decent second-string that Klopp will surely want to keep fit and in form lest they need to come in to the first-team. I don’t think he’ll take either cup competition seriously, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see us do well in them regardless.

Predictions

Bearing all of that in mind, here’s how I think we’ll do this season:

  • Premier League: Winners
  • Champions League: Semi-Finals
  • League Cup: Fourth Round
  • FA Cup: Semi-Finals

Let me know what you think in the comments.

2 Comments
  1. August 24, 2020
    • September 1, 2020

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