NORWICH CITY VS. LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, August 14th |
Premier League | Carrow Road
5:30PM BST/12:30PM EST
Barring Jordan Henderson and Thiago, most first-team Liverpool players have been in the squad’s pre-season working on fitness and cohesiveness for quite some time, a luxury Jürgen Klopp has not had in the past — a luxury that might make decisions on who starts more difficult than it has been in some time.
It’s likely that Klopp will have a planned set of line-ups for the first few games since rotation due to scheduling will not be an issue. For Norwich, we might see James Milner put in some minutes to help maintain defensive solidity in the absence of Andy Robertson (and potential debut of a new centerback partnership).
Naby Keïta is an option in the midfield after (another) strong pre-season, though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can say the same. Fabinho is perhaps the easiest decision to make in the central three, as the Brazilian is set to return to his role at the base of the midfield after often being asked to fill in at centerback last season. Harvey Elliot, too, could see a Premier League start tomorrow.
While he is fit, Curtis Jones will miss this match due to concussion protocols. He and Andy Robertson are the only players ruled out of the first Premier League match.
The defensive four will be determined by fitness and preparation levels: if Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are fully fit on their return from injury, we might see one or both of them; if Ibrahima Konaté is deemed ready to debut in a new league, he might be handed a start; Joël Matip, coming back from his more minor injury, is perhaps the most likely to get the nod of the returning three players. Trent Alexander-Arnold should return to his role at right back, and Andy Robertson’s injury should give Kostas Tsimikas a chance to shine.
Klopp has more decisions to make up front, as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Diogo Jota have all looked fresh in pre-season. All in all, Klopp is in the enviable position of having loads of players who probably deserve to start — a relief after last season’s struggles.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Keïta, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Norwich City is slightly changed from their last time up in the Premier League, in both positive and negative ways. The big news is their loss of Emi Buendía, one of the best players in the Championship last season, to Aston Villa. Buendía was a major attacking strength in 2020/21, scoring 15 goals and assisting 14, while also moving the ball into the final third more times per 90 minutes than any other player in the league (per StatsBomb). In general, Buendía was a crucial and active component in the Norwich tactical structure, also recording the most possession-adjusted pressures per 90 than anyone else, as well. His absence will leave a hole in the squad.
Daniel Farke does have some exciting new players in his squad to try to fill this gap, however, and they will likely see the pitch against Liverpool. Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour, who previously performed admirably against Liverpool for his parent club, is at Norwich on a season-long loan, and might well get a start in the midfield on the opening day.
Milot Rashica has been brought in as a potential Buendía replacement, and while the player doesn’t plug all the Buendía-shaped holes in the squad, he does show a lot of promise. Rashica is a versatile player from relegated Werder Bremen in the Bundasliga, and can play anywhere from wide attacking positions to deeper centrally. Like Buendía, his stats show him active in the attack as well as the defense, and his performance levels will be central to Norwich’s success (or failure) this season.
Of course, there are also some familiar faces on this Norwich side, with Timo Pukki coming in as top scorer last season (26 goals), and Max Aarons returning with more experience at the back.
While Norwich recently had a COVID-19 outbreak, all players have returned with negative tests and are available (though necessarily had to be left out of training for ten days). Przemysław Placheta is out with COVID-related issues (while no longer positive, is struggling with side effects), while Andrew Omobamidele is a doubt due to tonsilitis. Sam Byram is unavailable long-term with a hamstring issue. Todd Cantwell will be available after returning from an ankle issue.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “A good start is important. I love to win the first game, but I think it’s disrespectful to discuss this before we face Norwich. I know what a good job Daniel Farke is doing there. They believe in his work and the project, and you can see that.”
Daniel Farke: “I get the feeling we are much better prepared than we were two years ago. Two years ago we needed the Premier League money to play for our sins in the past. Last time we only had one player who had Premier League experience in Alex Tettey. Now we are still the only self-funding club at this level so we are still the underdog, but this time we don’t need a miracle we need a bit of luck with injuries and hard work.”
Referee: Andre Marriner Assistants: Simon Long, Richard West Fourth Official: Graham Scott VAR: Stuart Attwell Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM BST/12:30PM EST tomorrow. In the meantime, The Liverpool Offside team will keep you updated with all of the team news and match buildup as it becomes available, along with providing a matchday liveblog and post-match recaps and reaction. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account and have your say on the action as it happens.