Norwich City play their first Premier League game in over three years this evening, and what better way to ease themselves back into top-flight action than a visit to the home of the European champions? If you’re an optimistic Canaries fan, you can at least console yourself with the knowledge that by 10pm, one of the hardest games of the season will be over and done with.
Both sides will be largely recognisable from the XIs that finished the 2018/19 season; having won the Championship, Norwich will put their trust in the players who got them here. The Canaries have invested just £5million in new players over the summer, which for reference is about 3% of what fellow promotees Aston Villa have spent. Liverpool, meanwhile, have kept things almost exactly as they were. Their biggest off-season signing, Harvey Elliott, is at 16 years of age very much one for the future and unlikely to see action tonight.
Liverpool vs Norwich City Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Norwich City
Among the many subplots of this match, an eye-catching one is that it brings together two managers from the growing ex-Dortmund collective that is slowly taking over European football. The high-pressing, attractive approach that Jurgen Klopp has successfully installed at Liverpool is mirrored in the tactics of Canaries boss Daniel Farke, who took over second-team duties on the banks of the Ruhr just as Klopp was ending his stint with the senior squad. This should, therefore, be a kinetic, absorbing match, with Liverpool emerging as winners – man for man, they’re simply a stronger side.
Our recommended tip: Goal within 15 minutes
The Reds’ pre-season difficulties saw them pick up a single win in five prestige friendlies, losing to Sevilla, Napoli and Dortmund. However, last weekend’s Community Shield showdown with Manchester City contained evidence that they’re hitting form just at the right moment – had Mo Salah brought his shooting boots to Wembley, Klopp’s men could well have turned over the Premier League champions. As always, the Anfield side will be aiming for a fast start, and 138’s odds of 6/4 on them grabbing an early goal are attractive against a defence that was prone to leaks even in the Championship.
If tonight’s game is a repeat of the January 2016 encounter at Carrow Road between these sides, we’re in for a classic. It was a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, and Liverpool took the lead on 18 minutes through Firmino. The Canaries, then deep in the relegation mire, hit back through Mbokani, Naismith and Hoolahan.
No sooner had they gone 3-1 up, though, than the hosts conceded, Henderson’s 55th minute goal sparking a Liverpool comeback. Firmino again, and then Milner, steered the Reds back ahead, 4-3. 90 minutes elapsed with the score that way, but the five minutes of injury time allowed for more drama – Bassong equalising for Norwich, only for Lallana to secure all three points for Klopp’s men.
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Players to watch: Divock Origi & Jamal Lewis
With Liverpool’s Salah-Firmino-Mane front-line all having spent much of the summer on international duty in Africa and South America, there could be a delay in them getting back to the heights they hit last season. Belgian international Origi may not have the all-around game of the aforementioned trio, but he’s certainly a trusty finisher. Having scored the clincher in the Champions League final, the former Standard Liege man has an impeccable sense of occasion, and is a good shout to get things rolling tonight.
Tonight will mark a Premier League debut for Norwich’s left-back Jamal Lewis, and he’s facing a baptism of fire with the task of marking Salah. With that said, Norwich’s game relies on getting their full-backs forward, so maybe we should be worrying about Salah’s capacity to mark Lewis. The Northern Ireland international will fancy exploiting any space Liverpool leave down their right flank, and although he faces a challenge here, he wasn’t named the EFL Young Player of the Season for nothing.