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Premier League 2013-14 Team-By-Team Preview: Liverpool

Our 20-team preview of the 2013-14 Premier League season continues with Liverpool. What can we expect from the Reds this year?

Gareth Copley

Liverpool finished 7th in the 2012-13 season, just behind rival Everton. It's the second straight year they've missed out on European competition, and Brendan Rodgers will be trying to turn things around on a relatively limited budget. I sat down with -Ed- of The Liverpool Offside to preview the upcoming season.

Coming Home Newcastle: Liverpool finished 7th with 61 points last season. It was an improvement on the season before, but Liverpool fans seem to believe the club could and should do better. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Liverpool Offside: Depending on the week, day, hour, or minute, the glass could be anywhere from brimming over to completely empty. The summer started positively with a number of solid squad signings, and it's been crickets other than the high-profile miss on Henrikh Mkhitaryan. There's a foundation there, and I think we're seeing some good things, though the current squad is an injury or two away from crisis in a few spots. Baseline doesn't really exist for Liverpool supporters, but if it did I'd say there's a feeling of careful optimism about the new season.

CHN: The Reds' record against the top 6 teams was just 1-7-4. Do you chalk this up to tactic, a statement about the club's quality, or something else?

LO: Both those things and more. Aside from the loss to Arsenal at Anfield, I don't think Liverpool were terrible against last season's top four. The draws against Chelsea were ugly, but they really shouldn't have given away leads against Manchester City (x2), Arsenal at the Emirates, and Everton at Goodison. The fixtures against United were a few missed chances away from sharing points. Think the biggest problem is that Liverpool are so paralyzingly self-conscious that they can't help but piss away the good they did create in those types of matches. Expecting better from Brendan Rodgers and the squad this season.

CHN: What does your gut say about Luis Suarez? Whose shirt will he be wearing after the transfer window? If he goes, what's the plan to replace him?

LO: I think he goes in January or next summer, but after how firm the club was over the past few weeks, I don't think they let him go before that. If he does it'll have to be for silly money and/or abroad. There isn't really a "replacing" to do, instead more of a compensating with different players to provide pieces of what he does that's so special. Philippe Coutinho can do the creating, hopefully Iago Aspas can add a bit of fire and passion in the final third, and Daniel Sturridge (if healthy) should get the goals.

CHN: Are you confident in Simon Mignolet's ability to take over for Pepe Reina in goal?

LO: I really am. I love Pepe Reina, but a switch was coming at some point, and Mignolet seems set to do the job. He hasn't really been tested in the preseason, and everyone's going to talk about how important his distribution will be, though he's mostly done well so far. Couldn't be a bigger challenge for him in the opener--Liverpool have been terrible at defending set pieces for just about a decade, and one of the biggest knocks on Reina over the past few seasons is how uncertain and wobbly he's been. Stoke might be different under Mark Hughes, but they'll still look to set pieces and playing it over the top, and Mignolet will have to be assertive. Big Anfield debut for him.

CHN: Is too much being made of Liverpool's new-found thriftiness, or is there legitimate reason for concern?

LO: Think we'll find out over the next few weeks. General consensus seems to be that they're willing to spend but can't find players who will come to a club that can't offer European football. That makes sense, obviously, but they're about even on transfers this summer and have trimmed wages to the point that they can probably splurge if they find a player that is willing to join.

CHN: Given your current squad, what would your ideal Starting XI be?

LO: Mignolet; Johnson Toure Agger Enrique; Gerrard Lucas Allen; Aspas Sturridge Coutinho

There's just not a whole lot of other options for getting crazy--maybe Henderson for Allen/Gerrard, or going with a two-man midfield of Lucas and Henderson, dragging Coutinho central, and putting Jordon Ibe or Raheem Sterling on the left flank. Depth is kind of a problem.

CHN: What do you expect Brendan Rodgers' Starting XI will be?

LO: Mignolet; Johnson Toure Agger Enrique; Gerrard Lucas Allen; Aspas Sturridge Coutinho

See above. Not too much room for much else assuming everyone's fit and ready to go.

CHN: What would have to happen this season for you to consider it a success?

LO: I think Liverpool have to either qualify for Europe in the table or at least be close to the top four in the final few months of the season. Rodgers is getting the squad close to what he wants it to be, and if there's not some upward movement in the table supporters are going to get impatient. I'm happy with him and think things are trending positively, but I'm not sure others will see it that way.

CHN: Where will Liverpool finish in the table?

LO: As-is, 5th-6th. Earth-shattering signings before the end of the summer and everyone stays healthy, maaaaaaybe 4th. Also possibly 12th.

Thanks to Ed for taking the time to answer our questions. Visit The Liverpool Offside for all things Liverpool.

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