The new Premier League season hasn’t kicked off, but it feels like Liverpool’s chances of a title have taken a hit already. It is still over 12 days until Liverpool host Norwich City as I write this. Two more preseason matches, versus Napoli and Lyon, and the FA Community Shield against Manchester City must be played before the Premier League curtain-raiser.
The Reds had a disastrous United States tour. Okay, disastrous may be overstating it, but the tour wasn’t good. Liverpool lost to Borussia Dortmund 3-2 as they couldn’t defend throughout the fixture. Even experienced defenders from last term couldn’t cope with Borussia Dortmund’s attack.
The following match saw the Reds lose to Sevilla, 2-1, after another poor display of defending. In their final American tour match, Liverpool conceded two goals to Sporting Lisbon as the Portuguese giants came from a goal down to grab a draw.
Liverpool’s preseason has seen them win against two lower league English sides, beaten by two top European teams, and draw with another of Europe’s elite sides.
Nathaniel Clyne injured again
Making matters worse is the loss of right-back Nathaniel Clyne. The only good news over Clyne’s latest knee injury is it isn’t as bad as first believed. Initial reports claimed he would be sidelined for 12 months. However, the latest reports claim Clyne will be out for six months. Still, he may be absent all season. It is unlikely Clyne can get his knee rehabbed and fit before next May. Although the club believes Clyne could make it back before the end of the season, it just doesn’t feel likely.
Clyne could have had a big role at Liverpool as a back-up full-back. He also could have been sold allowing manager Jurgen Klopp to strengthen the side with another full-back from elsewhere. Neither option is now available to the manager.
Preseason has been devoid of stars
Liverpool’s stars Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker, and Sadio Mane are also still missing. Firmino, Becker and Salah are due back on Monday but their lack of preseason and fitness will be a major negative. The trio has played more football this summer, a non-World Cup year, than in 2018 when the World Cup was held.
Mane’s exploits at the Africa Cup of Nations could keep him out of Liverpool’s Premier League opener.
All four players are key members of the team and reasons Liverpool won the Champions League and gained 97 Premier League points last term. If the Reds start slowly, or any of the four players of Firmino, Salah, Alisson, or Mane do, then Liverpool’s title challenge could be up in smoke.
FIFA Club World Cup
Another hit to the Reds this offseason was the announcement of the Club World Cup fixtures in December. The Reds have a great opportunity to win the tournament trophy as they compete against the various Champions League winners from around the world.
The tournament in Qatar will see the Reds play on the 18th and 21st of December. Liverpool’s last Champions League group stage fixture is set to be played on either the 10th or 11th of December. Meanwhile, there are a number of Premier League and possible Carabao Cup matches that will be played around that time causing further congestion.
Liverpool could play 10 matches in just 29 days. If the Reds can get through the early stage of the Premier League season, Champions League and Carabao Cup, it could be the December fixtures that cause a Premier League title slip-up.
The Reds must get through the first month of the Premier League season first. With Salah, Firmino, and Alisson due back on Monday, hopefully, the Reds can get fully prepared for a title challenge.