International action puts pressure on Liverpool’s preparations ahead of opener against City
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
European champions Liverpool, at Anfield, on the opening Friday night of the Premier League season, in front of a watching television audience of millions from around the globe. It couldn’t be a much tougher start for Norwich City.
It could be seen as a free swing by some. Come away from the top-flight season's curtain-raiser without a heavy defeat and the reigning Championship champions should come away with their pride intact.
The more optimistic among us may just feel there is a glimmer of hope against Jurgen Klopp's impressive squad though, that Friday, August 9 could even be a favourable time to take on the Reds.
One thing is for certain, the hype will be unavoidable and the Kop will rock, as the home faithful welcome their heroes home for the first time since that glorious night in Madrid little more than two months earlier.
June 1, to be precise, was when Tottenham were beaten 2-0 - thanks to a rather fortunate early Mo Salah penalty and Divock Origi emerging from the shadows again in the 87th minute.
It was far from a vintage Champions League final but the Liverpool fans don't care in the slightest, their club can enjoy wearing the European crown for a sixth season.
They also fell agonisingly short of being champions of England for the first time since 1990, missing out on the title to Manchester City by just a point.
Yet when they were beating Spurs, the Canaries had been enjoying their off-season break for almost a month - shaking off a few hangovers during the initial days, no doubt.
While the title celebrations were calming down in Norfolk, Anfield was rocking to a legendary 4-0 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals, before a 2-0 win over Wolves which wasn't enough to leapfrog Manchester City on the final day of the Premier League season.
Then came a three-week break before the game against Spurs at the start of June, followed by international action within a week for their players involved in the Nations League finals, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson with England, as well as Virgil van Dijk (Holland) and Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland).
Some of the Norwich players were back on the pitch in June as well, with Teemu Pukki, Kenny McLean and Jamal Lewis all in Euro 2020 action for their respective countries - before heading back to the beach.
With a squad packed full of top-level talent, Liverpool had plenty of players in European qualifying action too. Then came the tournaments, with the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) and Copa America keeping some of Klopp's star names active.
The Reds boss must feel like the season has barely stopped for some of his players, as he longs for them to get some proper rest - particularly given that the previous campaign followed on from a World Cup summer.
But no, midfielder Naby Keita (Guinea), speedy attacker Sadio Mane (Senegal) and top scorer Salah (Egypt) were all back in action at the end of last month in Cameroon for the Afcon.
Egypt and Salah were knocked out by South Africa in the last 16 on Saturday but Mane has a quarter-final against Benin to look forward to tomorrow, with the final not played until July 19.
While most of the well rested Norwich players began pre-season on Monday of last week, players like Salah and Keita will now have an end-of-season break and join up with the rest of the Liverpool squad later this month.
You can add goalkeeper Allison and striker Roberto Firmino to that list as well, who were with Brazil within days of the Champions League final and had six games at the Copa America, which ended in triumph on home soil, beating Peru 3-1 in the final at the Maracana on Sunday.
Salah, Mane, Allison, Firmino - these are key players in the Reds' success under Klopp, all in need of some rest before thinking about the new season.
Liverpool are squeezing in seven friendly games before the end of this month as well, with youngsters likely to figure against Tranmere and Bradford, but five games against elite clubs to follow, facing Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Sporting Lisbon in the USA, Napoli in Edinburgh and Lyon in Switzerland.
Then to stick the cherry on top, the small matter of rivals Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday, August 4, just five days before facing Norwich. Just thinking about that pre-season schedule is another to make you tired.
Top clubs have to deal with such demands, of course, but a demanding workload is certainly facing the Liverpool squad so who knows, maybe City can catch them cold?
To do so they will still need to be at the very top of their game, with the wind of that glorious Championship triumph still at their backs, such are the resources available to the big boys in the Premier League.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Bournemouth were all given cup scares during the earlier days of Farke's reign - and things have really kicked up a notch under the German's guidance since then, so the Canaries should not be underestimated.