By James Miller – @JimmyMiller2608
The much anticipated return of Premier League football sees last season’s Championship winners, Norwich City, return to Anfield for the first time since 2015.
Touted title challengers Liverpool will be hoping to start the fresh campaign as they mean to go on, hoping to make a statement of intent, playing in the opening fixture of the season. New boys Norwich though, will be looking to stabilise themselves in the division as quickly as possible.
The ever increasing fan base of Premier League football will be highly aware that the two sides are currently ranked at opposite ends of the spectrum. While the Reds are expected to push for their first Premier League title, the prospect of maintaining status as a Premiership club would be appealing to most followers of the Canaries.
Analysing the business done by both clubs, this summer, Daniel Farke’s City have been the more active side. A total of six new faces have been revealed at Carrow Road, with the latest being Ibrahim Amadou, who completed a season-long loan move earlier this week.
In addition to new recruits, Farke has been able to tie down numerous key members of his Championship winning side, many of whom have been attracting solid interest. Youngster Max Aarons, heavily linked with Manchester United this summer, is a prime example.
Jürgen Klopp adopted a contrasting approach to his compatriot Farke during the market, preferring to improve his academy prospects. The only major first team signing being a deal for Adrian, formerly of West Ham.
Liverpool endured a tough pre-season, as the busy schedule for some of the world’s finest players continued to mount. The likes of Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané all featured predominantly for their countries at the Copa America and African Cup of Nations respectively.
Heavy restrictions and the dire need for rest meant that, for much of pre-season, Klopp was balancing offering youth opportunities alongside topping up player’s minutes. The intense regime, mixed with various International competitions, may well have came at an appropriate time for the Reds.
Heading out to the US, Borussia Dortmund offered a first taste of defeat. Sevilla soon added further worries, implementing a second straight defeat, before bowing out in New York, sharing the spoils with Portuguese opponents Sporting Lisbon.
Friendly competition has rarely been the foundation to base a solid conclusion in regard to where a side is at in terms of current standard. However, when it boils down to a fixture between arguably the two giants of English football right now, Liverpool and Manchester City, every match seems to have a competitive edge.
On Sunday, Pep Guardiola and Klopp led their two sides out for the first time since the Citizens narrowly edged a second-successive league triumph on a dramatic final day climax. Just as the thought that rivals have died down in English football, the battle between the two appears to be close to be heating up at a rapid pace.
Throughout 90 minutes in which recent form appeared a distant memory, the Reds showed exactly why many still fancy them to add to their Champions League trophy last time out, matching their opponents until the very end. Once again though, it was again disappointment due to the finest of margins, Georginio Wijnaldum’s penalty eventually proving costly, following a 1-1 draw in normal time.
The Canaries looked to be singing and dancing on the road to their long awaited Premier League return, starting pre-season with two solid results including the scalp of Schalke 04 – who featured in last season’s Champions League, reaching the round of 16.
In response to a poor showing, fresh face Josip Drmic demonstrated why the club adopted to bring the Swiss to England, wrapping up his first hat-trick for the club against Luton Town. Having secured a 4-1 lead by half time, Manchester City loanee Patrick Roberts was able to wrap up a convincing 5-1 victory.
Three days on, it was the Canaries on the end of a drubbing. Italian side Atalanta exposed a relatively inexperienced City, in need of developing a degree of consistency. As Farke continues to explore the nature of his sides capabilities, it can only be expected that the level of performances could differ.
Liverpool have been boosted by the return of Sadio Mané in the build up to the crucial opener and Klopp has confirmed that the Golden Boot-winner is available, but a lack of first-team involvement could see Klopp continue with Belgian Divock Origi, wide left.
Off the back of a full week’s training, it would be hard to see too many changes from the side fielded against Manchester City at Wembley.
One change is the appointment of Adrián as No.2 following the departure of Simon Mignolet midweek. It is unlikely that the Spaniard will feature, although he will be on the bench.
James Milner is also unlikely to start with the midfielder facing a battle to be fit. A big decision that may have to be concluded close to the start, is the inclusion of Joel Matip or Joe Gomez. In last season’s run-in Matip was the favoured man, after a lengthy spell on the sidelines for the Englishman.
Another option that may be considered is switching Gomez out on the right, at the expense of Trent Alexander-Arnold, something which Klopp has opted to do in the past. However, it could be argued that Alexander-Arnold would be the more suited full-back to match Norwich’s preferred style of play.
Daniel Farke has confirmed the absence of integral defenders Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose for the trip to Anfield due to injury, meaning a Premier League debut for Ben Godfrey is likely. In addition to those two injuries, experienced midfielder Alexander Tettey is also set to miss out.
If the Canaries final pre-season outing is a guide of what is to come, the prolific Teemu Pukki is set to lead the side from the front, leaving former Blackburn and Newcastle United man Grant Hanley to marshal Farke’s men from the back as captain.
The expectation is always for Liverpool to fare comfortably against a newly-promoted side, especially at Anfield. Although it is always difficult to judge is the true ability of the opponents, as they haven’t met in a competitive league fixture.
Last season Norwich played some eye catching, free flowing football as they convincingly returned to the Premier League. On the other hand, the Reds now have the added pressure of performing to the level expected from the Champions of Europe. Realistically it should be a simple three points for Klopp’s men, who will be hoping to send a message to the rest of the top six, straight from the off.
This game has the potential to be quite close and frustrating, until the first goal goes in. If Norwich can sneak the opener it may disrupt Liverpool. However, if the hosts managed to break through early it could be an uncomfortable evening, for a group of player that have little knowledge at the highest level as of yet.
A young group may well be exposed by the high quality which Liverpool possess in abundance. If Salah performs to a standard somewhere similar to that of what he put in against City, he may prove to much for the expected choice of Jamal Lewis at left-back.
Predicted score: Liverpool 5-0 Norwich