We’re back! The 2016-17 Premier League season starts off with one of the keenest tests of the season; namely, a Liverpool team that’s been revitalized under the guiding hand of my second-favorite manager in all of soccer, Jurgen Klopp.
Arsenal v. Liverpool
When: Sunday, August 14, 4 pm GMT/11 am ET/10 am CT/9 am MT/8 am PT
Where: Emirates Stadium, London
Importance: Aside from “setting the tone” for the season (and we’ve had backchannel online debates about whether this 1⁄38 of the season is really more important than any other 1⁄38 of the season), it’s a match against a traditional rival who’s one of the legitimate eight or nine title contenders this year.
Key players: For Liverpool, look for newly-acquired Sadio Mane to figure into the proceedings, along with liberated-from-Newcastle Georginio Wijnaldum. We’d also be remiss to not mention POTY candidate Philippe Coutinho. (In case you’re curious about the rest of the lineup, we had a great Q&A with Liverpool Offside worth checking out.) For Arsenal, will Alexis Sanchez be deployed in the #9 slot or in his more typical wing position? Either way, he and Alex Iwobi are likely to figure into an attack still missing the might-be-key, might-be-part-of-a-platoon Olivier Giroud.
Key injuries/omissions: For Liverpool, both Daniel Sturridge and James Milner are doubtful, and Sturridge’s absence in particular improves the general outlook for Arsenal. Gabriel’s recent injury in the Swedish Community Shield match against City depletes an already-thin backline; look for the possibility of either Nacho Monreal joining Calum Chambers at center back, or a rolling of the dice with bright shiny new signing Rob Holding.
Our guess at the Starting XI: Cech; Gibbs, Monreal, Chambers, Bellerin; Xhaka, Ramsey; Iwobi, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis.