Liverpool’s final preparations ahead of the season opener at Watford have been far from ideal for Jurgen Klopp, who has injuries to core players to contend with coupled with the distraction of Barcelona’s pursuit of Philippe Coutinho.
However, as his side ready to line up for the first of five games across two fronts in 15 days, the Reds will be determined to start 2017-18 assertively.
Liverpool have an enhanced attack, with the addition of the explosive Mohamed Salah and the shrewd signing of Dominic Solanke.
The main task will be to make better decisions at the opposite end of the pitch as well as to implement better game management.
Adam Lallana is sidelined with a thigh injury, sustained against Atletico Madrid in the Audi Cup final shootout defeat, for a minimum of two months.
“I think we can pretty much rule him out of August and September,” Klopp told the club’s official website.
“Beyond that we will monitor and wait and see. He is a boy with a world-class attitude to everything professionally and he has always come back in good time from injury setbacks since I have been here, so we will see.”
Coutinho, the subject of two rejected bids from Barca, is a doubt having been unable to train thus far this week due to a back problem.
Daniel Sturridge has been nursing a thigh issue after scoring against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Nathaniel Clyne, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the opener. “He’s had no pre-season so far,” Klopp explained.
“So, for him, it will not only be tight for Watford, it’s pretty much impossible.”
Neither side have any suspension worries for this fixture.
LIVERPOOL POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
Liverpool’s midfield will be shorn of guile without Lallana and, if Coutinho is unable to feature, Klopp will also be sans his creative architect.
Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum are likely to fill the positions in the centre of the park, while at right-back it is a battle between Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.
The former is the favourite to start and is a more expansive option.
On the other flank, Alberto Moreno impressed during pre-season while new signing Andy Robertson is still getting familiar with Klopp’s demands from his full-backs. It would not be too much of a surprise to see the Spaniard in the XI, but James Milner could again get the nod.
Salah and Sadio Mane should line up from the off with Roberto Firmino operating as the focal point.
While there is greater competition in goal with Danny Ward also rivaling Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet, the Belgium international is expected to kick off the campaign.
WATFORD TEAM NEWS
Troy Deeney, who has appeared in 75 of Watford’s 76 Premier League matches since the start of 2015-16, is set to sit out the encounter due to a groin complaint.
Club-record signing Andre Gray should feature, while fellow new recruit Richarlison has received his work permit.
Another incomer, Nathaniel Chalobah, has revealed the team are adapting well to Marco Silva’s demands and will concentrate on what they have to do rather than Klopp’s side on Saturday.
“Liverpool are a tough side and every game in the league is going to be tough,” he said.
“It’s about focussing on ourselves and getting there and hopefully doing a good job.”
Mauro Zarate, meanwhile, remains a long-term absentee for the Hornets having been injured in a 1-1 draw with West Ham in February.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Watford have lost their last three Premier League meetings with Liverpool, with an aggregate score of 1-9 in the Reds’ favour.
Liverpool have won each of their last four opening day Premier League matches, after failing to win any of the previous four.
Jurgen Klopp’s heaviest defeat as Liverpool manager came against Watford in December 2015, with the Reds going down 3-0 at Vicarage Road.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
The match is being televised live on Sky Sports in the UK and kicks off at 12:30 BST.