Liverpool’s season kicks off on Wednesday night (13 August) as they take on Standard Liege in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier in Belgium. I can not wait as it has been a long wait for the season to finally get going! It may just be a Champions League qualifier versus relatively lesser opposition but it is a competitive game and one that Liverpool just has to win. A win will set us up well for the start of the Premiership campaign on the weekend against Sunderland.
Liverpool travel to Belgium with a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ activities taking place at Anfield. The Gareth Barry transfer saga still rambles on with suggestions that the American owners have not backed Rafa in his bid to sign the Aston Villa player. But Rafa has put all this turmoil behind and decided to rather focus on the game in hand against Standard Liege. We will deal with the squabbling after picking up a much needed victory in this match.
Looking ahead to the match, Robbie Keane and Andrea Dossena are most likely to get their first starts for Liverpool in a competitive match. Other new signings, Diego Cavalieri and David N’Gog are likely to be on the bench for this encounter and Swiss right-back Philipp Degen will be unavailable due to injury. It is more than likely that Rafa will start with a similar team to that which started against Lazio. But Steven Gerrard has travelled with the team to Belgium and there is a chance he could be fit enough to play. Any starting lineup with Gerrard is more than welcome but I feel if he is not really 100% fit then we should rather rest him and make sure he is ready for Sunderland. Taking nothing away from Standard Liege, but I feel we can beat them even without Gerrard.
When the starting lineup is announced for the game, all eyes are going to see if Xabi Alonso is starting. If Alonso plays in this match he is going to be cup tied for the Champions League and that would mean that his value on the transfer market would drop considerably. I guess this will be the most clear sign we have to see if Alonso will be staying at Liverpool or not. If he plays, I think it is almost certain he will remain a Liverpool player for the season and that would make the signing of Gareth Barry very unlikely.
I think this will be the starting eleven for the match: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena, Plessis, Alonso, Benayoun, Kuyt, Keane, Torres. I really doubt Rafa will risk playing Gerrard. In terms of a scoreline prediction; Liverpool should edge this one 2 – 0 with goals from Torres and Benayoun.