Just a point separated Liverpool from champions Manchester City last season, but Jurgen Klopp’s squad has remained largely intact. It means a defence led by centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker is still strong, while Mohamed Salah ensures the forward line won’t lack for goals.
Klopp has some potential selection headaches, notably concerning the readiness of Salah’s fellow winger Sadio Mane. He only returned to training on Monday following a break after helping Senegal reach the final of this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations.
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Whether Mane plays or not, the Reds have the firepower to get off to a winning start. Klopp’s bigger worry might be how his back line resists a Norwich attack that netted 93 goals en route to winning the Championship last season.
Liverpool are understandably heavy favourites to win, but the Canaries have a few players who could change the outcome. Striker Teemu Pukki was prolific last season, scoring 29 times in English football’s second tier.
Pukki was ably supported by an attacking midfield featuring creative winger Emi Buendia. His battle with Liverpool full-backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold will go a long way to determining Norwich’s fate on Merseyside.
If the Canaries are kept quiet in the final third, Liverpool should have few problems wearing down the visitors. A midfield led by intelligent powerhouse Georginio Wijnaldum will keep Salah and versatile centre-forward Roberto Firmino supplied with chances.
Mane’s fitness remains in doubt, but Klopp is confident the 27-year-old will be in good shape, per Chris Shaw of the club’s official website: “How we all know, Sadio had 16 days off—he will be in a good shape.
He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t eat too much. He had a training programme, maybe after 10 days probably he started with a little bit of running, so I think he will be fine. But we have to see.”
If Mane doesn’t start, expect to see Divok Origi take his place and provide enough pace and aerial power to help see the Reds over the line.Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Norwich City