This afternoon see’s Anfield open its doors for the first time in the 2010/11 campaign, as the visit of Arsenal see’s the Reds get their Premier League campaign underway.
Roy Hodgson may well have already tried to play down fans’ hopes ahead of the new campaign by claiming the club are already trailing the other members of the so called ‘Big Four’ but Reds fans will be hoping for a home performance like March 2007. This was the last time that the Kop saw maximum points taken at home against the Gunners as a hat-trick from Peter Crouch and another goal from Daniel Agger took them to a 4-1 win on the day. Only five players remain at the club that started that game, with Dirk Kuyt making it 6 who was on the bench that day but this time he will be expected to start the game either on the right flank or leading the line.
Pepe Reina has recovered from a minor shoulder injury and is expected to take his place between the posts for Liverpool, with Hodgson able to call upon a virtually fully fit squad for his opening league game as the Reds boss. New arrival from Juventus, Christian Poulsen is expected to be included in the squad for a possible early baptism in the Premiership as Lucas Leiva has only just returned to Melwood following International duty. However as far as Liverpool’s central midfield department is concerned it is expected to be “want away” Javier Mascherano that starts the game alongside England’s talisman and Reds captain Steven Gerrard. The game is also expected to deliver debuts for Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic in a forward line that could be positionally similar, to that deployed by Rafa Benitez in recent seasons.
The big news waiting to be heard surrounds the involvement of the striking force that is Fernando Torres, with manager Roy Hodgson refusing to rule out a return in some part for the previously injured Spaniard star. El Nino is expected to play some part in front of his adoring Kop but that may well be from an initial position on the bench which will leave Roy Hodgson to decide on David Ngog or Dutchman Dirk Kuyt, to lead from the front if Torres is deemed not fit enough to start.
Arsene Wenger’s squad on the other hand is not in as good shape as their hosts. They already have Djourou (hamstring), Bendtner (groin) and Ramsey (leg) ruled out for the trip to Anfield, while several other Arsenal stars are struggling for fitness.Midfielder Alex Song (calf) is expecteded to be added to that list and Denilson (abdominal) and Diaby (calf) face late fitness tests before their inclusion is confirmed. Arsenal include new signings striker Marouane Chamakh and defender Laurent Koscielny in their new squad but are much lighter defensively, following the departures over the summer of Sol Campbell, William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre.
Wenger, fresh from signing a contract extension through to 2014, has left the availability of both Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas up for speculation as they search for fitness following their World Cup involvement. It maybe verging on mind games from the Frenchman but his card faces being trumped should Fernando Torres make the starting line up. Liverpool will try to ensure though that frequent tormentor Andrey Arshavin doesnt add to his headline tally.