“Ready to go!” tweeted Mohammed Salah a few hours ago. He could be speaking for the bulk of football fans who have been impatiently waiting for club football to start again in the earnest. And indeed, they do not have to wait for long as Liverpool will kick-off the season on Friday night when they welcome Norwich City to Anfield for the first matchday of the 2019-20 Premier League season.
Liverpool and Norwich might seem a few worlds apart, given that the former almost won their first Premier League title, while the Canaries won the Championship title to reach the Premier League. However, there is a major similarity – if we draw a league table of summer transfer spending, these two clubs will get relegated as Liverpool have not signed any first squad player – other than Adrian on a free transfer and Norwich have been fishing in the budget end of the market. But other than that one similarity, both teams will look at this fixture and the entire season differently. For Liverpool, this is an opportunity to continue the amazing standards they set in the last season, and eventually to try and pip Manchester City to the title. For Norwich, the aim is Premier League survival.
If anyone has any doubts regarding Salah’s and Liverpool’s motivation from the aforementioned tweet, they only need to watch the Community Shield game from the weekend again. In the second half of that game, Liverpool played like they meant business and took the game to penalties, which they lost 4-5. For the friendlies that preceded that game, the focus was on giving the youngsters a chance and getting the players ready, but in Community Shield, the Reds were trying to win. Although the results of the seven friendlies were not too good (W3 D1 L3), the Reds did manage to score 2.3 goals per game, while conceding only 1.6 per game. They also took 15 shots on an average per game, while allowed the opponents only 8 shots per game. Come Friday night, Jurgen Klopp will want his team to use that preparation and start focusing on winning.
Daniel Farke has done a great job of getting Norwich City back to the Premier League. But now he needs to ensure that they survive in the top-flight this season. The Canaries have their task cut out and it is starting on some very difficult notes. After visiting Anfield on Friday, they have to host Chelsea and Manchester City in their first five league fixtures. Farke has readied his team by ensuring that the core group of players that won the Championship in May are still at Carrow Road. He has brought in some reinforcements, but the reliance is going to be on the heroes of last season. Their preparation has had they play friendlies against the likes of Toulouse and Atalanta, in which they won 1-0 against the French side and lost 1-4 to the Italians. They also played a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road against DSC Arminia Bielefeld from the second tier in Germany.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 12 matches against Norwich City – all in the league – winning 10 and drawing two, while scoring 39 goals and conceding only 13. A fair share of those 39 were contributed by Luis Suarez in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
- However, this will be the first time that Liverpool and Norwich will be meeting after their nine-goal thriller at Carrow Road in January 2016, when Adam Lallana’s 95th minute strike won it for the Reds and Jurgen Klopp lost his spectacles in the celebrations.
- Liverpool have not lost on Match Day 1 of a Premier League season since a 0-3 away defeat to West Brom in the 2012-13 season. Since then they have won five and drawn one of their openers. Norwich on the other hand, have won just one season-opening league match in the last 16 seasons (W1 D8 L7) – in 2016-17 Championship season against Blackburn.
- The Canaries seem destined for a loss again as Liverpool are currently enjoying a 40-gae unbeaten home run in the league (W30 D10) since losing to Crystal Palace in April 2017. Against promoted sides they are unbeaten in 25 gams at Anfield (W20 D5), with Klopp winning all 10 such games.
Although Mohammed Salah had only a brief appearance against Lyon as preparation, he played the entire 90 minutes in the Community Shield. In the Community Shield game he had 10 shots, four of which were on target. His total xG for that game was 0.77. Although he was thwarted by Bravo or the woodwork on each of his attempts, he was the biggest threat for Manchester City in that game, and he will be the biggest threat for the Canaries on Friday night.
If Salah was the joint-top scorer last season in the Premier League, the Finnish Teemu Pukki was the clear top scorer in the Championship scoring 29 goals. In two friendlies that he has featured in – against Toulouse and Atalanta, the striker took 9 shots, seven of which were on target for an average xG of 0.5. The six foot tall striker will be the primary threat that Liverpool have to be wary of on Friday.
For Liverpool, Nathaniel Clyne is ruled out after sustaining a knee injury in the pre-season, but even if he was fit, it is difficult to think that he would have started on Friday. James Milner could also be unavailable as he will be assessed on Friday to see if he has recovered from his muscle injury.
For the Canaries, Christoph Zimmermann is ruled out for Norwich, which could see Timm Klose, who is a doubt, start alongside Ben Godfrey in defence. Louis Thompson and Alexander Tettey are also injured and will sit out the trip to Anfield. Ralf Fahrmann is set to get the nod between the sticks, while fellow summer arrivals Sam Byram and Josip Drmic are expected to start from the bench.
The last and only time Liverpool started a league season at home against Norwich City, they won the top-flight league title ahead of Manchester City in 2nd (1976-77). Liverpool had won 1-0 against the Canaries in that fixture. While the Reds’ fans will hope to replicate the season result, it is highly unlikely that Liverpool will be limited to a one-goal victory on Friday.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Norwich City