PREDICTING THE LIVERPOOL TEAM TO FACE NORWICH
Liverpool take on newly promoted Norwich City at Carrow Road tomorrow in their opening game of the 2021/22 Premier League season. A hostile atmosphere awaits as Norwich welcome a capacity crowd for the first time in over a year. Liverpool themselves have had a good pre-season, with a one month long training camp in Austria and France, taking in friendlies with Mainz, Bologna and Hertha Berlin among others.
There are several welcome selection headaches for manager Jurgen Klopp after two impressive performances in back to back Anfield friendlies against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna. Unfortunately, there are a couple of players unavailable for tomorrow’s trip to Norfolk. Left back Andy Robertson picked up ankle ligament damage on Sunday whilst Curtis Jones took a blow to the head the next day so will miss out due to concussion protocols.
Klopp still has a plethora of options across the squad to pick from. In goal, we expect Alisson Becker to start. He looked very sharp against Bilbao, making some solid stops. At full back, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kostas Tsimikas will likely start. The Greek’s performances in pre-season should see Jurgen resist the urge to go with the ever reliable James Milner. With Robbo missing for the next month at least, it’s a fantastic chance for Kostas to get a belated run in the team.
Centre back offers the biggest headache in terms of selection. From a drought last season, Jurgen now has a flood of top class options on his hands. For most of pre-season, it looked like a pairing of Joel Matip and new signing Ibrahima Konate would start on the first day of the season. Over the past week though, Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez have stepped up their return to full fitness, looking comfortable in the friendlies.
Jurgen said yesterday that Virgil and Joe are both available to start. We feel Joel is definitely starting. He has taken in more minutes during pre-season and looked great in training as well. Alongside him could very well be Ibou. Just on the basis that he’s had a full pre-season and isn’t coming off the back of ten months out so should be close to his best already. We reckon Virgil will start though especially after signing a new long term contract today.
Midfield is another area with lots of competition. James Milner played all of pre-season at the base of midfield due to Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago’s late return after summer tournaments, but with how sharp Fabinho has looked, we expect him to start. Alongside the Brazilian, Naby Keita is a shoo in. He’s another who’s enjoyed a strong pre-season and will look to stay fit to make an impact. For that third slot, Milner, Ox and Elliott will all fight it out.
We expect Millie to be given the nod and he will captain the team on the day. His leadership qualities will be required and he’s one who is fitter than most, at this time of the season when players are still building up their own fitness. In attack, it could be Salah, Jota and Mané despite Firmino’s excellent brace against Osasuna. Diogo has looked very sharp himself and should start through the middle and switch positions with Sadio and Mo in a flexible and fluid attack.
Our predicted team: (4-3-3)
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas, Fabinho, Milner, Keita, Salah, Jota, Mané.
Subs: Kelleher, Konate, Gomez, Henderson, Thiago, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Firmino.
In what is a very strong bench, Divock Origi misses out. As do Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Phillips who look set for moves away. Youngsters like Neco, Rhys, Beck, Clarkson, Woodburn and Gordon will also be left out.
We expect a strong lineup regardless who gets picked. That’s the beauty of having as strong a squad as we have. A win will be the objective as we seek to start the season fast to continue the way we ended it last season with eight wins and two draws from the last ten. There are some terrific recent memories against Norwich, and we’ll all be hoping for more of the same.