Liverpool vs Norwich
| Friday, August 9th |
Premier League | Anfield
8PM BST / 3PM EST
No matter how long you follow the sport, it never changes; the first game of the season always sneaks up on you. The Premier League is back — suddenly — and Liverpool get the honour of kicking it all off, hosting newly promoted Norwich at Anfield in the first game of the season.
Unlike fellow newcomers Aston Villa, Norwich have not spent big money or made significant alterations to the squad that cruised to a Championship title last season, trusting their long-term plan and making shrewd, cheap signings, such as the free transfer of former Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach man Josip Drmic and a loan deal for Schalke’s Ralf Fährmann.
Last year, Norwich stood as one of, if not the single most entertaining teams in the Championship, with a full half of their games containing four or more goals. Trusting in the firepower of Teemu Pukki, Mario Vrancic, Emiliano Buendía, and Marco Stiepermann — the quartet scoring 57 goals between them — the Canaries overcame their less than stellar defense to take the title, despite conceding 1.24 goals per game.
Sensible transfer business means that Daniel Farke’s young squad can handle — and perhaps expect — potential relegation, giving the team freedom to play the way they want to play. As such, tomorrow’s hosts may find themselves up against a side unafraid to come forward in search of an upset win.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Keïta; Origi, Firmino, Salah
Similar to tomorrow’s opposition, Liverpool have not made significant moves in the transfer market this summer either, favouring adding young talent and securing contract extensions for established stars over big money marquee signings. The return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — who missed the entirety of last year’s campaign with a knee injury — constitutes the closest Reds fans will get to a new signing this season, but it is not an insignificant one.
In other words, the team will look intimately familiar to those Jürgen Klopp produced last year, and with Joe Gomez back from injury, the 22-year old is likely to start next to Virgil van Dijk at the back.
Further up the pitch, James Milner sat out the Community Shield with a slight muscle injury, but trained yesterday and is in contention, and the Reds midfield sports an otherwise clean bill of health, with both Naby Keïta and Oxlade-Chamberlain potential starters alongside two of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Up top, Sadio Mané is available, but unlikely to be involved, having just recently returned from holiday following his run to the finals of the African Cup of Nations, but both Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are expected to start. Champions League hero and undisputed Liverpool legend Divock Origi is likely to replace Mané on the left wing.
With Manchester City spending €135m on two players to bolster their already overpowered squad, Liverpool will have to play out of their skin for another full season if they are to have any shot at challenging the champions, and getting off to a quick start is imperative. Fingers crossed they can get the job done against Norwich.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “What’s very important, even as a team who won the Champions League last year, [is that] we have to stay the team who nobody wants to play against – not because of the name or the quality we have, but because of the intensity we put into the game. That’s what I will ask the boys for and what we have to show tomorrow night for the first time this season.”
Daniel Farke: “Even if it was possible to park the bus we could not. We will have to play with many offensive players and in order to be successful we will have to be good and keep the ball. If we have only to defend our goal we have no chance to get a good result. I believe in my players and my group and we have to find a solution to be competitive.”
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Graham Scott
VAR: Andre Marriner
Assistant VAR: Scott Ledger
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.