December 31, 2014

It's an unveiling fit for the champions.

Liverpool will make their long-awaited season debut at Anfield against titleholders Leicester City on Saturday, when the already-historic cauldron will sit even more fans in the newly expanded Main Stand.

The Reds (1-1-1) were nomads in the early part of the season before the international break, making two successful trips to London with a season-opening victory at Arsenal and a draw at White Hart Lane versus Tottenham Hotspur around a flat 2-0 defeat at Burnley.

Jurgen Klopp's team also advanced in the League Cup with an easy 5-0 win at Burton Albion, but the time has finally come to take the pitch at Anfield - 122 days since their last match there - where 8,500 new seats in the Main Stand have been added to give an imposing home venue even more energy and volume with a capacity of 54,000.

"What they did there… outstanding job," Klopp told Liverpool's official website Thursday. "I've got no idea how somebody could do something like this, but when you stand in front of it, it's really amazing.

"This is a good place, a good opponent, with the champions coming. It was really well deserved what (Leicester City) did last season. They're still good, but it's now another season. It's our first home game and with 8,000 more in the stadium - that's more power and we should use this."

Though it is a new season, Liverpool are still experiencing growing pains at the back. The Reds have still yet to post a clean sheet in league play, conceding six goals, and they will be sternly tested by a Foxes side continuing to evolve past their championship campaign of 2015-16.

One player who will not be able to help Liverpool is midfielder Emre Can, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury. Defender Mamadou Sakho, whose ban for using a fat burner was overturned in July, is practising with the team and available for selection.

The offence is expected to continue to flow through Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, with the latter having scored England's match winner at Slovakia to open World Cup qualifying earlier last weekend. Coutinho appeared as a reserve in both of Brazil's qualifier wins.

There's also the on-going matter of Daniel Sturridge's availability, having made an eight-minute cameo off the bench for the Three Lions last Saturday. He has played just 93 minutes over three matches for Liverpool thus far, and his two goals came in the League Cup rout of Burton Albion.

As Liverpool try to get comfortable in their renovated dwellings - they took just 32 points from 19 home matches last season - the Foxes are trying to avoid consecutive league road defeats for the first time since losing at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on March 4 and 21, 2015, a span of 23 matches (13-7-3).

Prior to the break, Leicester City broke their duck with a 2-1 victory over Swansea City on Aug. 27 as Jamie Vardy and Wes Morgan scored on either side of halftime before conceding a late goal.

Though goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had to leave that victory in the second half with a groin injury, manager Claudio Ranieri expects his No. 1 to be available despite undergoing minor surgery for a sports hernia during the break.

"He is ready," Ranieri told the team's official website Thursday. "I said it was a very little operation, it was good, the surgery was fantastic and he is ready to play."

The area of concern for him and the Foxes, though, will be in the midfield and attack. New signing Nampalys Mendy and Jeffrey Schlupp will be held out of this match due to their respective injuries, meaning Demarai Gray likely will get the call in the midfield and Ranieri will choose between Shinji Okazaki and Ahmed Musa to partner up front with Vardy.

Given Liverpool's shakiness at the back, Musa's pace combined with Vardy's relentness high pressure could cause all sorts of issues for the Reds.

This match also kicks off a busy stretch of schedule for Leicester City, who will play seven matches over the next 22 days as Ranieri will attempt to juggle his roster amid Champions League, League Cup and league matches.

"We are ready to play these seven matches ... It is good, it is exciting, we go from Premier League to Champions League to EFL Cup and it's good," the manager said."

One of those three aforementioned road losses came at Anfield last Boxing Day, with the since-departed Christian Benteke providing the winner just after the hour. Liverpool are unbeaten in five league matches (4-1-0) at home versus Leicester City.

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