David Freezer: Plenty of clues for Anfield as City began final preparations
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Pre-season survived with momentum intact? Check. Avoid any major injury issues? Sort of. Ensure you’re ready for Anfield at 8pm on Friday? That’s the answer everyone connected to Norwich City now eagerly awaits.
Thanks to the trusty left foot of Kenny McLean finding its range against Toulouse there is still plenty of positivity surrounding Daniel Farke's champions as Liverpool loom.
Had just a couple more of the Scot's team-mates had the composure to take some of the almost ridiculous amount of chances at Carrow Road, then City fans would really be buzzing for Friday.
The final friendly is always a slightly odd game though, with avoiding injury very much in the mind of the players with the big kick-off closing in. That was the case on both sides on Saturday, as Toulouse begin their season on Saturday.
Unlike the midweek clash with Atalanta, that was played at full pelt in the first 45 minutes before losing all structure as a contest after the break, this was much more pre-season paced.
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In fact the first 30 minutes was so tame that Tim Krul's first save of note, in the 30th minute, drew ironic cheers from the 12,650 crowd which had made the effort to see how the Canaries were looking in their final dress rehearsal.
Eventually there was plenty of decent attacking play from the hosts though. Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell both went close on three occasions, Ben Godfrey had a headed goal disallowed for offside, Emi Buendia absolutely clattered a post, Moritz Leitner nearly poked in from close range and Josip Drmic twice took the wrong option.
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With the pace and strength of the tourists also stretching City's defence at times and forcing two good saves apiece in either half from Krul and Ralf Fahrmann, the 1-0 win ended up being a more than worthy workout.
Would Toulouse survive in the Premier League? On this evidence, probably not, but they are set up for a quite different style of play in Ligue Un and as a club they are preparing for their 17th campaign in the French top flight.
There was still plenty of clues for those looking to piece together Farke's team for Friday's opener against the Champions League winners though.
Jamal Lewis banked 86 minutes to make him the only player to exceed 500 minutes during pre-season, ahead of Grant Hanley on 446 minutes and Mo Leitner (425) as the only other player above 400.
At the other end of the scale it's Alex Tettey and Christoph Zimmermann facing an uphill battle as the season starts after injury prevented them from featuring at all, although both have been able to train in some ways, with Tettey avoiding surgery on his calf issue and Zimmermann on his way back from a minor knee surgery.
They are joined by Mario Vrancic, the hero of the closing stages of last season's promotion glory. The midfielder squeezed in another half-an-hour but Farke has already admitted a start at Anfield looks unlikely.
Lewis is joined by fellow full-back Max Aarons, goalkeeper Krul, midfielders Emi Buendia and Tom Trybull and striker Teemu Pukki as near certainties to start against the Reds.
Godfrey has looked in good shape and captain Hanley could well have a huge chance to shine alongside the youngster in central defence, unless Timm Klose can shake off his hip issue sufficiently.
All of which is likely to leave the headaches for Farke over whether to start McLean or Leitner in midfield alongside Trybull, and to pick four from two for the remaining attacking midfield slots from Marco Stiepermann, Onel Hernandez, Patrick Roberts and Todd Cantwell.
Vrancic, Tettey and Zimmermann may well have been strong contenders had pre-season worked out differently but the time for speculating is almost over. The big stage awaits and City's head coach is about to have his motivational and tactical skills tested in a way he has never experienced before.
- NCFC 2019 PRE-SEASON
RECORD: P7 W4 D1 L2 F16 A12
MINUTES: Lewis 506, Hanley 446, Leitner 425, Godfrey 393, Aarons 381, Trybull 346, McLean 344, Cantwell 341, Hernandez 339, Roberts 327, Srbeny 312, Buendia 311, Heise 282, Fahrmann 280, Krul 280, Stiepermann 277, Pukki 263, Klose 246, Byram 246, Drmic 232, Idah 135, McGovern 90, Vrancic 46, Thompson 19, Tettey 0, Zimmermann 0 (approximate totals, 630 maximum)
GOALS: Drmic 4, Pukki 2, Idah 2, McLean, Srbeny, Hernandez, Leitner, Buendia, Stiepermann, Roberts, Cantwell
RESULTS: D2-2 v Arminia Bielefeld (A), W4-1 v SC Bonner (A), W2-1 v Schalke (A), L3-1 v Brentford (Colney), W5-1 v Luton (A), L4-1 v Atalanta (H), W 1-0 v Toulouse (H)