Liverpool are set to kick off their Premier League campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Fulham when the two sides meet at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon.
The Cottagers will look to kick start their return to the Premier League with a positive result after having a mixed run of results during their pre-season.
Fulham got their pre-season campaign off with a 2-0 win over Nice but were humbled in the match that followed after suffering a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Benfica before bouncing back to claim a 3-1 win over Estoril, however, they failed to continue their winning momentum and were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Villarreal in their final pre-season fixture.
The Reds are looking to put last season behind them and focus on the campaign ahead after a very successful pre-season which saw them defeat rivals Manchester City in the FA Community Shield.
Liverpool began their pre-season tour with back-to-back victories against Crystal Palace, who they beat 2-0, followed by trashing RB Leipzig 5-0 before scumming to a narrow 1-0 defeat to RB Salzburg. However, Liverpool responded by clinching a convincing 3-1 win over Man City in the Community Shield but their celebrations were short-lived as they fell to a 3-0 loss to Strasbourg in their final pre-season match.
“These players, they are ready for the Premier League,” says Fulham boss Marco Silva.
“The players that we have right now, I congratulate them for the work they have been doing. I’m always behind them, they did fantastic last season.
“We, as a squad, we are not ready. These players, they are ready.
“I have to tell you, and I don’t want to speak for too much time about the situation, I want to be clear with you; now we have 16 senior players in our squad.
“No one competes at this level with 16 senior players in your squad.
“I will tell you one more. No one can prepare for one season with just two central defenders. We have two central defenders at this level.
“I can continue and not stop, but I don’t want to talk more about it, I’m talking because you asked me about it.
“I have to congratulate our players because they have worked really hard but anyone that understands football can see that we need at least five or six more players, that is clear.”
Jurgen Klopp adds: “When you have a pre-season, I’m now long enough in the business that I think I can get a sense of where we are and how good we could be. But yesterday the game was a really good sign because we looked really ready, we looked really sharp and that’s important.
“Now we have a full week, and in the end I think we have two full weeks probably for the next two games to prepare. You have to use that as kind of a pre-season, that’s why we played today and now we have to see that we prepare well for Fulham because it’s a different game obviously. But the boys look good and so I’m happy with where we are.
“A little bit lesser injuries would be nice – we were a bit unlucky very early, before we really started training, to be honest, and that doesn’t help. But the boys will come back rather sooner than later and then we have a fuller squad.
“But in the moment, the boys who are available look really good and sharp.”
When the two sides last met in the Premier League, Fulham came out the better two in the home and away fixture after they first held the Reds to a 1-1 draw before clinching a narrow 1-0 win at Anfield in the return leg.
Fulham’s Silva could be without three key players for their league opener as Joe Bryan, Nathaniel Chalobah and Harry Wilson are all doubtful for the encounter as they continue to nurse their respective injuries.
Klopp will have a full-strength squad for the game with the exception of goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher and midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who remains sidelined through injury.
Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrović will look to mark his Premier League return in style as he has never lost a league game when he has scored at home but he will be looking to continue his form in front of goal after a record 43 goals in 43 matches last season.
Egyptian forward Mo Salah will be hoping to extend his matchday one record, having scored in the Reds’ league opener in each of the last five seasons.