Predicting Liverpool’s starting XI to face Chelsea

After what has felt like too long without a competitive game, Liverpool return to Premier League action this weekend.

An up-and-down summer has seen Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szobozlai come in and numerous midfielders leave, but things have quietened down of late, amid much frustration among the fanbase.

Sunday’s trip to Chelsea is, therefore, a welcome distraction away from transfer news, as the Reds begin a campaign that will hopefully end in silverware of some kind – preferably a second Premier League crown.

Jurgen Klopp has some key decisions to make with his starting lineup at Stamford Bridge, but what starting XI will he ultimately go with against Mauricio Pochettino's men?

Here’s how Liverpool’s team could look come Sunday.

READ MORE: 7 big questions for Liverpool ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season

No-brainers at the back

© Proshots - Alisson Becker

While there are definite selection dilemmas further up the pitch, the Reds’ back-line picks itself this weekend, unless you’re trying a little too hard to think outside the box and be different.

Alisson remains arguably the first name on Liverpool’s team sheet, having been far and away their best player last season. His influence will again be enormous in 2023/24, but he will hope to have as quiet an afternoon as possible on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold looks nailed-on to continue in the new hybrid midfield role that he shone in during the back end of last season.

Drifting into the middle of the park when Liverpool are in possession, the 24-year-old could have a special season ahead of him, with his vision unmatched within the squad and his playmaking ability giving his side a new dimension centrally.

That being said, there are concerns about the right-back area being left wide open when the Reds lose possession and opponents counter-attack, so a clear risk comes with this use of him, as has already been shown in pre-season.

Ibrahima Konate is now firmly ahead of Joel Matip and Joe Gomez in the centre-back pecking order - he was probably Liverpool's best defender in 2022/23 - so he walks into the starting lineup alongside Virgil van Dijk.

The Frenchman staying fit is so important for the Reds, while Van Dijk returning to his former level is equally vital, following a noticeable dip last time around.

Whether he is simply past his absolute peak as a player will become more apparent in the coming months, but the hope is that he is reborn with a more youthful, vibrant midfield in front of him, and having enjoyed a summer holiday to recharge the batteries both mentally and physically.

Andy Robertson has found it tough to adjust to his new role so far, drifting across into a more central role at times to make up for Trent roaming into midfield, but some of the criticism has still been extremely over-the-top.

While a left-sided centre-back who can also play at left-back is needed this summer, in order to provide more competition for the Scot, his place in the team is not remotely under threat for now.

A good start to the season is needed, particularly in order to quieten the naysayers.

Who starts in the number six role?

Midfield is a trickier area to predict, mainly in defensive midfield, with Fabinho’s exit suddenly leaving a void there.

The fact that Liverpool still haven’t signed a number six, and could well head into the Chelsea game without one in the whole squad, is negligence of the highest order.

It had looked as though Curtis Jones was the favourite to start there, having been used in the role during pre-season, to mixed results.

On Monday, it was Mac Allister who was deployed deepest after the Englishman failed to start because of injury, though, and we're now tipping him to get the nod as the deepest lying midfielder, having impressed there.

There is little doubt over Szoboszlai making his competitive debut for Liverpool, occupying one of the two number eight berths, with the Hungarian on the right-hand side supporting alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah.

How he fares in such a potentially high-tempo game will be fascinating to watch, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t impress, combining class in possession with a strong work ethic.

Harvey Elliott is another option to go with, but we think Klopp is going to stick with the XI that beat Darmstadt 3-1, which means Cody Gakpo playing in midfield, in an ultra-attacking lineup.

The Dutchman has played there before sporadically, but shining there in such a huge game against strong opposition will be another test altogether.

Two from four in Reds’ attack

Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

READ MORE: Can Liverpool score enough goals to win the Premier League?

While Liverpool worryingly lack depth in certain positions, they are at least blessed with a huge amount of talent in attack.

The still-world-class Salah walks into the starting XI, as he looks to embark upon his latest season of goalscoring brilliance, but who joins him?

We’re going with Luis Diaz on the left flank, with the Colombian looking razor sharp in pre-season and finding his goalscoring boots, not least an outrageous back-heeled effort against Darmstadt.

Diaz's lack of end product has been held against him at times, but he is a fantastic option and his absence last season was absolutely huge. Don't be surprised if the 2023/24 campaign sees him truly arrive at Anfield, following a stop-start time of things to date.

Centrally, Darwin Nuñez is a great option and it wouldn’t be disappointing to see him start in west London, having put together a productive summer of his own.

It is Diogo Jota who we are backing to lead the line with Gakpo deeper, though, with the Portuguese such a ruthless finisher and relentless presser. Him starting on Monday night suggests that he is ahead of Nuñez in the reckoning.

The Uruguayan could be a potent weapon off the substitutes’ bench, and don’t be too shocked to even see blistering teenager Ben Doak being given a chance in the second half.

It is a tough team to predict, and we could easily see Jones as the number six and Gakpo moved into his preferred striker role, but Klopp's selection on Monday suggests that the same side will take to the field this weekend.

Liverpool’s predicted XI to face Chelsea: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Gakpo; Salah, Diaz, Jota.

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