It’s finally here – the Premier League season is back and Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool kick things off against Norwich today.
The Canaries travel to Anfield on their return to the Premier League and will be fearful after previous trips to Merseyside.
Even though Norwich won’t have to face their Anfield nemesis, Luis Suarez, they’ll still be right up against it.
The game looks heavily weighted in Liverpool’s favour but Klopp will not let his team take the game for granted.
Liverpool will look to make a statement as they look to end a 30-year wait for a league title this season.
Whether it was Norwich or Manchester City, the intensity Liverpool will attack this game with will have been the same.
How the Game Will Play Out
Liverpool’s unbeaten record at Anfield stretches back for more than two seasons now, making it an imperious place to visit.
The last team to win here was Crystal Palace, when Christian Benteke came back to haunt Liverpool with a brace.
That was back in 2017 and so much about Liverpool has changed since then.
Their defensive frailties are a distant memory, they’ve lost big-name players but recovered as if it never mattered.
It is, without a doubt, a stern test for Norwich as they begin life in the Premier League again.
And their recent showings against the Reds have usually resulted in lots of goals – but not many wins.
In their last five meetings, Liverpool have won four and drawn once against Norwich – scoring 19 goals in the process.
Lots of them were scored by Luis Suarez, and although he’s gone, Norwich will still have to be extremely cautious about.
Liverpool will look to take control of the game early on and keep Norwich penned in.
They will have to break through a 10-man barricade to score, but the class is there to do so.
It’s hard to see where Norwich will cause Liverpool problems but they will be more than up for it.
Predicted Starting XI
Predicted XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Origi, Firmino, Salah.
Like last season, large parts of Liverpool’s team will simply pick itself given the lack of signings over summer.
Alisson Becker will don his new number one jersey between the sticks, with a familiar-looking defence ahead of him.
Van Dijk will be joined by Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold on the flanks, but who’ll partner him in the middle?
Lovren is well down the pecking order in fourth, so it’s a straight shoot-out between Matip and Gomez.
Gomez was Klopp’s go-to man before his injury last season, but Matip excelled in his absence, giving Klopp a selection headache.
It would not be surprising, though, to see Klopp opt for Gomez given his more natural pace and athleticism.
The midfield again throws up a selection dilemma for the manager on the eve of the new season.
Captain Jordan Henderson enjoyed a refreshing rebirth at the end of last season playing in a more advanced role.
He excelled and added lots of thrust, power and energy in that position, and impressed everyone – including his manager.
His place in the starting 11 looks guaranteed, alongside Brazilian Fabinho whose signing was crucial to Liverpool’s success last year.
Long have Liverpool been crying out for a player of Fabinho’s class, efficiency and ability to break up opposition attacks.
So that leaves one place in the midfield if we assume Klopp will use his favoured three-man set up.
A fully fit roster of Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain – and ever Shaqiri – are vying for that place.
Against such opposition as newly promoted Norwich, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Klopp chose a more attack-minded player.
While Wijnaldum and Milner would provide a steady, reassuring presence, Klopp may want more dynamism and attack threat.
And for that reason, I think Naby Keita will get the nod over his teammates.
Norwich will likely come to Anfield and set up to frustrate Liverpool, with two deep lines of midfield and defence.
Keita is the perfect option to make direct runs and pick passes between those lines and get into dangerous positions.
Playing him alongside Henderson will also bring so much energy and tenacity that it won’t let Norwich settle at all.
From there, they can feed into the front-three and get Liverpool on the score sheet.
Then there’s one more selection choice for Klopp to make upfront, even if Mané has been deemed fit.
With the Senegalese having had considerably less time training during pre-season, he has a question mark over his head.
Of course, if he’s fully fit and available, it makes sense for Klopp to consider him, but there’s a big risk of him burning out.
Mané barely missed a minute for Liverpool last season and went all the way to the final of the AFCON this summer.
With only two week’s rest before the Premier League resumes, there’s risk of him burning out later in the campaign.
So it’s likely Sadio will miss out on the chance to record a goal in four consecutive opening Premier League fixtures.
Who then, comes in to replace him in the starting line-up?
There are plenty of options for Klopp – but he will likely turn to his trusted option in these scenarios – Divock Origi.
The big Belgian secured legendary status on Merseyside last season with a number of vital goals.
His strikes against Barcelona, Spurs and Everton will be hard to top, but Origi will certainly have a part to play.
He seems to be Klopp’s preferred choice at present when one of the usual front three is absent.
However, after speaking glowingly about Xherdan Shaqiri this week, could Klopp instead opt for the Alpine Messi?
It would make more logical sense as Shaqiri is far better suited to playing out wide and possesses best attributes.
He’s a great crosser of the ball, can provide devastating through balls and knows the position better.
Origi is better suited as a striker through the middle – but will put a shift in out wide regardless.
Despite this, I still think Klopp will opt with Origi – call it a gut instinct.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Norwich
It’s hard to see anything other than a Liverpool win.
They showed in the Community Shield that they’re raring to go and looking sharp, so Norwich will be wary.
After narrowly missing out on the title last season, Liverpool won’t want any early slip-ups as they pursue glory again.
It’s a game Norwich will be delighted to take even a point from, but I’d be surprised if they get that.
It’ll be a comfortable Liverpool win.