Melissa Rudd: A trip to Liverpool on opening night? No pressure then, City

Sadio Mane lifts the Champions League trophy - next up are Norwich City Picture: PA

Sadio Mane lifts the Champions League trophy - next up are Norwich City Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

There seems to be two types of football fans. Those who feel lost on a Saturday afternoon without it by the first weekend of June and others who enjoy a well-earned break after a season of highs, lows, tension and drama.

After Mario Vrancic's 86th-minute winner at Villa Park confirmed Norwich's dominance of the division by wrapping up the Championship title, those of a yellow and green persuasion could, of course, be smug the entire summer.

Fast forward 48 hours from that final-day victory and as the celebrations were simmering down in Norfolk they were only about to begin on Merseyside. Liverpool overcame a three-goal deficit to defeat Barcelona and reach the Champions League final on a famous European night at Anfield that lived up to that often-quoted cliche.

Three months later and the eyes of the footballing world will again be on Anfield on Friday night as the most watched league in the world makes its eagerly anticipated return.

The bulk of the pre-match debate is bound to centre on Liverpool's assault on the Premier League title after their record-breaking runners-up points total last season. While only a brief segment of the hour-long television build-up will focus on Norwich, it's the 90 minutes once the whistle blows that will give Daniel Farke's side an incredible opportunity to showcase what they will bring to the division in a game they are under absolutely no pressure to win.

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Liverpool lost just one league game last season and have not lost a Premier League match at Anfield since April 2017. It's been a disruptive pre-season for Jurgen Klopp's charges, though, and while even the most optimistic Norwich fan wouldn't expect them to get a result, it might just be the best time to play the champions of Europe.

Last season's joint top goalscorer, Sadio Mane, only returned to training this week after Senegal's run to the Africa Cup of Nations final afforded him an extended summer break, while team-mates Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah have had 10 days of pre-season after they also represented their countries in tournaments this summer.

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The last five teams to have been promoted as winners of the Championship have gone on to avoid relegation from the Premier League the following season. The omens might be on the Canaries' side, but the bookmakers most certainly are not.

Norwich have been installed as second favourites to be relegated and the club's lack of summer spending is only likely to fuel that sentiment. Play-off winners Aston Villa have spent over £100m and Sheffield United have broken their transfer record four times this summer, splashing out an estimated £40m.

While Norwich fans will question what funds have been made available to Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke, they have no reason to doubt the duo's recruitment policy that worked so well for them last season.

Patrick Roberts has been the pick of the new signings during pre-season and is joined by German keeper Ralf Farhmann, right-back Sam Byram and Switzerland international Josip Drmic with holding midfielder Ibrahim Amadou, who played 32 times for Sevilla last season, joining on loan on deadline day eve.

The majority of last season's squad have been rewarded with new contracts, and the prospect of seeing them pit their wits against some of the best players in the world is an exciting one.

Webber has been keen to suggest that the squad's lack of Premier League experience should be seen as a positive, and it's true that with much more experienced squads Norwich went down with a whimper in their previous two top-flight campaigns.

Last season's goalscoring exploits will prove far more difficult to repeat and defensive improvements are a necessity. This City side will get a few bloody noses, but they've got the ability and spirit to give some back along the way.

Let's enjoy the ride!


Where will City finish: 16th

Who will win the title: Manchester City

Which three teams will be relegated? Sheffield United, Brighton, Newcastle

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