Liverpool will be hoping to kick off their Premier League campaign with a bang when they welcome Norwich City to Anfield on Friday night.
It is finally back. The festival of English football begins on Friday, with last season’s runners-up kicking things off. Liverpool will have the chance to lay down the early marker in the title race for the 2019-20 season, when they play hosts to Premier League new boys Norwich City at Anfield.
The Reds enjoyed quite a remarkable 2018-19 season, having racked up the third best points tally in Premier League history, only to finish runners-up to Manchester City by a solitary point. But, their season ended in triumphant scenes, with Liverpool winning their sixth UEFA Champions League title.
Ahead of the 2019-20 season, Jurgen Klopp would hope his side goes one step further this time around, ending their agonising three-decade long wait for a league title. Liverpool though, have not had the most ideal of preparations for the season ahead, having gone down to Manchester City on penalties in the Community Shield tie on Sunday.
Norwich City, on the other hand, will play their first Premier League game in three years. But, the Canaries are not a side to be taken lightly, having stormed to the Championship title as a well-oiled machine that plays some scintillating possession-based football. Those tactics will be put to their biggest test yet against the aggressive pressing game of their hosts.
The Reds naturally boast a strong head-to-head record against Norwich but their most recent clash was a nine-goal thriller, with Liverpool coming from behind to edge the tie 5-4 courtesy a last minute winner by Adam Lallana. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Heading into the Premier League season opener, the big question mark surrounds the availability of Sadio Mane. Last season’s Golden Boot joint-winner joined Liverpool’s pre-season training late after representing finalists Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mane though, has made himself available for the game, wherein he will look to continue his run of scoring in Liverpool’s season opening game in each of the terms he has been at the club. But, having not had much time in training, it is highly unlikely that he will be thrust into the starting lineup straightaway and will instead make an appearance in the second half.
In Mane’s stead, Divock Origi should keep his place in the starting lineup, which gives him the chance to further solidify his place in the first-team squad ahead of Xherdan Shaqiri. Origi will be joined by Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, who showed signs of top form against Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Klopp had also been sweating over the fitness of James Milner, who seems to have recovered from a muscle strain that forced him to miss the Community Shield tie. Milner though, is unlikely to make the starting lineup, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson being deployed in the no. 8 role of the midfield three. Fabinho will take his place as the holding midfielder.
At the back, there is unlikely to be a change, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson being the two full-backs, while Joe Gomez is likely to partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence ahead of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren. Finally, there is no competition for Alisson in the Liverpool goal, with summer arrival Adrian being the new backup to the Brazilian.
As far as tactics go, Liverpool need to watch out against the high-press tactics that Daniel Farke employs, similar to Klopp’s style of play, meaning van Dijk and Gomez will be under more pressure than they are usually while playing out from the back. Upfront, Salah will be the aggressor, looking to lay down the marker in the Golden Boot race.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Origi
Daniel Farke has a bit of an injury crisis to deal with ahead of his side’s season opener against Liverpool. At Anfield on Friday, the Norwich City boss will be without as many as five first-team players, including latest signing Ibrahim Amadou, who lacks match fitness.
Criticially, Farke will be without the services of regular centre-back Christoph Zimmermann (knee), apart from Timm Klose (groin), Alex Tettey (calf) and Louis Thompson (thigh). Zimmermann’s absence is the biggest blow for Norwich, meaning Ben Godfrey will have Grant Hanley as his partner in central defence.
Out on the right flank, exciting young full-back Max Aarons will make his Premier League debut, looking to continue making an impression after a fantastic 2018-19 campaign. On the opposite side, summer signing Sam Byram will challenge Jamal Lewis for the left-back role, with the latter likely to get the nod.
The midfield pivot is where the major impact is created by Norwich, with transition being a key component of Farke’s style of play. Here, Mario Vrancic will have Kenny McLean as his partner, with the two energetic midfielders being important figures in the side.
Up ahead in attack, Patrick Roberts will hope to start on the right wing, but Emiliano Buendia is likely to get the nod over the Manchester City loanee. On the opposite flank, Onel Hernandez will start, with Marco Stiepermann playing off the central striker, who ought to be last season’s top scorer in the Championship, Teemu Pukki.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Godfrey, Lewis; McLean, Vrancic; Buendia, Stiepermann, Hernandez; Pukki
1. Norwich Asian Handicap +2.5 @ 1.700
2. Under 3.5 Match Goals @ 1.80
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 10.00
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 12 matches against Norwich City (all in the Premier League), winning 10 and drawing two while scoring three times the number of goals as the Canaries in these matches (39-13).
- Liverpool are unbeaten at Anfield against promoted sides in 25 games (W20 D5), with Jurgen Klopp winning all 10 while he has been in charge.
- Norwich’s only defeat in 21 league matches in 2019 came away to Preston North End in the Championship in February (W13 D7).
- Norwich have won just one of their past 16 season-opening league matches (D8 L7). That was in the Championship in 2016-17, when they beat Blackburn Rovers 4-1.
- Sadio Mane has scored in Liverpool’s opening Premier League game in each of the past three seasons, as well as in nine of Liverpool’s last 10 league fixtures at Anfield.
Player to Watch
Liverpool have long shed their tag of struggling against lowly opposition. But, if there is one player that can ensure a brief return to those times, it’s Teemu Pukki. Last season’s top scorer in the Championship, the Finn is an explosive striker who tends to be clinical in front of goal.
The fact that he does not shy away from pressing aggressively also means that Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will have their work cut out on the night. Liverpool have posed a vulnerable look in the pre-season, and Norwich’s style of play, coupled with Pukki’s efficacy in and around the box could put them in a spot of bother in the Premier League season opener.
Liverpool 3-1 Norwich City
Liverpool are unsurprisingly the favourites to begin the 2019-20 on a strong note. But, in Norwich, they are set to face their toughest test in a long time, as far as Premier League season opening games go. The Canaries have made a name of playing fearless, aggressive football. And, a return to the top-flight is unlikely to force Daniel Farke to change his ways.
Last season’s runners-up, though, are unlikely to be downed in this one, with Mohamed Salah looking in menacing form in the Community Shield against Manchester City. And, with Sadio Mane, who has a fantastic record in season opening games, coming on in the second half, the Reds ought to see this one out relatively comfortably.
The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Liverpool. with Norwich not leaving without making some sort of impact. On the only previous occasion that they started a league season at home against the Canaries, the Reds won the top-flight league title ahead of Manchester City in 2nd (1976-77). Will history repeat itself? It will be interesting to see.