Liverpool's Premier League opener against Norwich City on Friday is a potential "banana skin" as the Canaries will be motivated to cause an upset, according to Reds great Graeme Souness.

Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title by a single point last season, meaning the Reds' stellar efforts domestically went unrewarded.

They start all over again at home to promoted Norwich, as they look to pick up where they left off last season.

Liverpool's record against Norwich in recent times suggests goals are to be expected, as the Reds have scored five times in four of their past six encounters with the Canaries.

But Norwich, who attracted praise for their stylish brand of football as they won the Championship under Daniel Farke last season, will be excited rather than overawed about heading to Anfield for their first Premier League game since 2016, Souness believes.

Speaking to Omnisport on behalf of PaddyPower, Souness said: "Liverpool lost the league by one point last season and that tells you how close it was, it's going to be the same this year, so every single game is a banana skin.

"If you're losing the league by one point, you don't need to be a brain surgeon to work it out, but you need to win every game, that's going to be difficult.

"Both teams [Liverpool and City] played to an incredible standard, can they achieve that again this year? I very much doubt it, but I still see those as the best two teams.

"When the fixtures came out for Norwich, as much as they don't want to be away to one of the best teams in the league, they'll have been excited by it.

"It's a game they'll be looking forward to, going to Anfield, a special place. It's a banana skin, as whoever loses [the title] is going to lose by a small margin."

An issue for Liverpool in pre-season has been the number of key players away on international duty, with Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane all appearing in either the Copa America or Africa Cup of Nations.

Souness does not feel that will impact Liverpool's start to the season, though he accepts manager Jurgen Klopp will have to be smart about how he uses his squad.

He added "I don't think it'll be a danger at the start of the season, but he has to manage his resources and that's why you have a big squad.

"They have very big squads and can afford to buy the best and pay the best wages, and they have to have big squads if they're going challenge on all fronts."

 

Graeme Souness was talking to Omnisport on behalf of PaddyPower's Come Out and Play campaign and Proud United, a team of LGBTQ footballers from across the United Kingdom working to tackle homophobia in football.

Three months on from a gripping and relentless title race reaching its conclusion, the Premier League is back.

Manchester City are aiming to become the first English team since Manchester United in 2008-09 to win three consecutive top-flight crowns, although Liverpool enter the campaign buoyed by their status as European champions.

Tottenham have finally bolstered Mauricio Pochettino's imperious management by making some big moves in the transfer market, while Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea find themselves in various stages of transition and possibly vulnerable to the top-six ambitions of Leicester City, Wolves and Everton.

Ahead of the big kick-off, nine Omnisport journalists considered the above and predicted their Premier League top six for 2019-20. Here's how our scores averaged out.

1st – Manchester City

A near unanimous choice as champions, eight of our panel backed Pep Guardiola's men to make it three in a row on the back of 100- and 98-point hauls in the past two campaigns.

STRENGTHS: Even allowing for Leroy Sane's knee injury and potential departure, City boast a stacked attack where Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez will be bolstered by triumphant international outings. Their midfield dominance will only be enhanced by a fit-again Kevin De Bruyne and record signing Rodri.

WEAKNESSES: Vincent Kompany's departure leaves Guardiola a senior centre-back light and without one of the most inspirational leaders the Premier League has seen. Benjamin Mendy's fitness woes and questions over Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino's capacity to produce elite performances over the course of a season mean left-back is as close as City come to a problem position.

2nd – Liverpool

Despite their unforgettable heroics in Europe, seven of our writers believe Jurgen Klopp's men will be the bridesmaids once more.

STRENGTHS: The best defence in the league, including a pair of full-backs as good as any operating in tandem in world football. Similarly, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane remain a fearsome attacking proposition for all opponents.

WEAKNESSES: There is onus on Naby Keita to improve and Jordan Henderson to excel in his advanced role over a prolonged period as midfield creativity is often lacking. The drop-off between the first-choice front three and the back-up underlines a relative lack of depth that a quiet transfer window did not address.

3rd – Tottenham

Outside of the top two, Spurs were the only other unanimous pick to finish in the top six.

STRENGTHS: Tanguy Ndombele was a headline-grabbing addition and, although Pochettino would undoubtedly have preferred an earlier arrival, Giovani Lo Celso should ease the creative burden placed on Christian Eriksen and thrive behind Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

WEAKNESSES: An ageing defence could find itself overworked in protecting the talented but error-prone Hugo Lloris. Having been a position of strength, Kieran Trippier's departure leaves Spurs looking slightly flimsy at full-back.

4th – Manchester United

The mixed nature of United's preparations – from strong friendly showings to a now typically disjointed effort in the transfer market – resulted in the widest range of predicted placings, with two of our panel placing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men outside the top six.

STRENGTHS: Pace and flair in attack, enhanced by the raw but exciting Daniel James. United paid top dollar for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire but the pair should add steel to what had become a troublingly leaky defence. On ability alone, Paul Pogba remains in this column.

WEAKNESSES: Romelu Lukaku's departure felt increasingly necessary but United now lack a proven, consistent goalscorer. Despite his status as a club legend, Solskjaer's lofty position in the sack race odds tells you all you need to know about a manager whose credentials – or lack thereof – will be under the microscope at the first sign of trouble.

5th – Arsenal

Despite two votes going in favour of the Gunners ending their Champions League absence this time around, the consensus was Unai Emery's team will fall short despite providing their fair share of entertainment.

STRENGTHS: Adding record signing Nicolas Pepe to an attack featuring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette means the Gunners can do serious damage to any opponent and could become a must-watch team. Dani Ceballos excelled as Spain claimed glory at the European Under-21 Championship and could prove to be one of the most shrewd acquisitions of the transfer window.

WEAKNESSES: The other element in Arsenal's appeal to neutrals is a defence that might never veer too far away from shambles. David Luiz and Kieran Tierney were much-needed arrivals on deadline day but a new-look backline has plenty to prove.

6th - Chelsea

Leicester's top-six credentials were given strong consideration but Chelsea just edged out the Foxes, despite Frank Lampard's lack of top-flight experience and having their hands tied in the transfer market.

STRENGTHS: Lampard's affinity with the supporters means last season's poisonous negativity surrounding Maurizio Sarri's reign should be a thing of the past. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and injured duo Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are expected to thrive as Lampard gives chances to graduates from the best youth system in the country.

WEAKNESSES: Eden Hazard's combined goals (16) and assists (15) last season accounted for almost half of Chelsea's Premier League goals. Making up for that shortfall will be nigh on impossible. Sarri was not flavour of the month in west London but the fact is a coach poached by Serie A heavyweights Juventus has been replaced by a man with one year of senior managerial experience.

Signings have been made and new managers are now in charge at some clubs, but how much will actually change in the Premier League this season?

The two teams who finished at the top seem nigh-on impossible to shift, at least according to the statistical evidence compiled after an incredible 2018-19 title race.

Champions Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool lost five games between them as they battled for the trophy until the final day, leaving others trailing well behind.

Will the gap widen with Eden Hazard torn from Chelsea, or can Manchester United close in after laying stronger defensive foundations?

We assess those questions and more in the Opta data preview for 2019-20.

 

City and Liverpool set to dominate again

It will take something bordering on sorcery to prevent City and Liverpool from retaining their places in the top two.

The masterminds behind their success, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, are the only current Premier League bosses to gain more than two points per game on average (2.42 for the former, 2.06 for the latter).

Klopp's competitive win percentage with Liverpool (57.2) even surpasses his level while in charge at Borussia Dortmund (56.4).

Moving to England has not been quite so successful in terms of victories for Guardiola, who won 75.2 per cent of matches during his time at Bayern Munich. However, his City win rate (73 per cent) still exceeds what he achieved with Barcelona (72.5 per cent).

Consider also that both sides start games incredibly well - Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah opened the scoring a combined 18 times last term, while Sergio Aguero did so on eight occasions - and it becomes tough to see who else is going to keep pace with them.

Chelsea face huge challenge to fill Hazard void

The acquisition of winger Christian Pulisic was a canny bit of planning on Chelsea's part, but there is simply no easy way to replace someone like Hazard.

Now at Real Madrid, the Belgium star left a lasting impression in his final season at Stamford Bridge, leading the Premier League for assists (15) and goal involvements (31) and finished second for chances created (98 - behind only James Maddison's tally of 100 for Leicester City). No other Chelsea player cracked the top 20 in any of those categories.

Hazard's 16 league goals accounted for more than a quarter of the Blues' total as a team and were directly worth 13 points, a figure only bettered by the 19 points which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned for Arsenal.

Frank Lampard has no choice but to create a better balance of responsibility among the attackers he has in his squad at Stamford Bridge.

Can Maguire and Wan-Bissaka fix United's porous defence?

How do you solve a problem like owning the leakiest defence among the teams who finished in the top nine of the Premier League? Throw money at it!

Well that is how Manchester United have approached the issue after splashing out over £100million in the transfer window.

Their spending is understandable after conceding 54 goals in 2018-19, a record for the club in the Premier League and the most they have shipped in a league campaign since 1978-79 (63).

First to arrive was right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who ranked second in the division for interceptions (84) and third in tackles (129) at Crystal Palace last term.

Then followed Harry Maguire, who became the world's most expensive defender when joining from Leicester City. The England international will go some distance to justifying that fee if United are to emulate the Foxes, who dropped only three points from winning positions.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his own part to play; United led the way in terms of starting XI changes last season (131), which feels like a recipe for disaster.

We go again.

The phrase has become an omnipresent, short-hand rallying call in modern football, which is somewhat surprising given what followed its most famous use.

Steven Gerrard insisted it was what he and his Liverpool team-mates must do just that after a rousing 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Anfield in April 2014. A first Premier League title in 24 years was within reach.

"This does not slip!" Gerrard hollered. Only, of course, he did and City won the title.

Five years on, Liverpool again found City in their way. There were no slips during the run-in this time, nor much suggestion of a misplaced step. In the final reckoning, 98 points pipped 97. The third-highest points total in Premier League history was only good enough for second place.

The difference between Jurgen Klopp's European champions and Brendan Rodgers' bolters from the pack is obviously vast, in terms of elite quality and consistency.

Lifting the Champions League was the validation of a brilliant team, who should enter their latest shot at City – the gulf between the top two and the rest of the Premier League's "big six" feels pronounced heading into 2019-20 – with renewed confidence.

Yet, it could pay to be wary of what has happened the previous two times Liverpool went close.

The Benitez and Rodgers hangovers

After 86 points were not enough for Rafael Benitez to unseat Manchester United in 2008-09, they dropped to seventh the following season, mustering 63 points. Sixth place and 62 points were the return in 2014-15 as Rodgers' dream crumbled.

Such a collapse under Klopp feels completely unforeseeable. But it is worth considering how fuelling the quest for top-flight title number 19 with an intense emotional desire has burnt out abruptly at Anfield before.

Klopp has shrewdly harnessed and stoked this sense of common purpose. On nights such as last season's phenomenal Champions League comeback over Barcelona, it is hard to dismiss the value of it.

After a worryingly underwhelming pre-season, the Reds rediscovered some of that devilment when they forced City to hang on before winning last Sunday's Community Shield on penalties.

From Friday's big kick-off at home to Norwich City onwards, Liverpool will rely on their manager's status as one of the most gifted and intuitive coaches of his generation to go again this time. After the match at Wembley, Andy Robertson talked up the benefits of keeping an excellent squad together – the expected positive line given a lack of major reinforcements.

Klopp's team will still develop and evolve. Rhian Brewster will operate as a back-up forward and aim to make the drop-off from Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to their back-up less pronounced.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has emerged from the other side of an injury nightmare, while Naby Keita will be more attuned to his boss' demands and eying a big season to justify his price tag.

Over at the Etihad Stadium, Vincent Kompany has not been replaced and Leroy Sane could still leave. Nevertheless, Rodri and Joao Cancelo appear made to measure for a man who, despite often coming up short in their head-to-head battles, remains Klopp's biggest problem.

"They have convinced me, I have no doubts"

Guardiola enters his fourth season in charge of a club for the second time. The contrast between the fraught figure who left Barcelona for a year on sabbatical and the cargo-trouser sporting version of today could not be more marked.

"I am a little bit different [compared to] my third or fourth season in Barcelona. Here I am more calm. I trust more in myself and my players," he said before the Community Shield.

"That was my home town, the feeling was more intense. Here we are isolated, we work so comfortably and that is why it is nice."

Even if his Wembley touchline gesticulations demonstrated this will be a relative calm, Guardiola also pledged to be "nicer" to his players this term.

"They have convinced me, I have no doubts," he explained. "At the end of [2017-18] I did not know how we would handle our success and it was incredible. The target is to keep improving."

That relentless quest for improvement is something Klopp knows all too well from their time together in the Bundesliga. Trying to match it is exhausting.

In 2013-14, his Dortmund beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup and were only four points in arrears before a 3-0 Klassiker defeat at Signal Iduna Park in November.

Bayern cantered to the title and Dortmund's distant second fell away to seventh in 2014-15, itself an improvement from a mid-season flirt with relegation.

The dynamic of Bayern pilfering Dortmund's best players is not one present in City and Liverpool's mounting rivalry, but unless Klopp can shake Guardiola from his serenity while keeping the fire burning, the result is likely to be the same.

On the other hand, all it takes is a slip. We go again.

Jurgen Klopp urged Liverpool to prove he was right to keep his squad together after a quiet transfer window.

The European champions only added three players – teenagers Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott and back-up goalkeeper Adrian – to their squad.

Klopp, whose team open the Premier League season at home to Norwich City on Friday, hopes Liverpool prove him right after they retained their stars in the off-season.

"Big teams stay together for a number of years," the German told UK newspapers.

"I really think it makes sense to keep this team together, but we have to prove that. If we had bought new players people might ask, 'After you played last season like this you send some of them away?'"

While they won the Champions League, Liverpool fell just short domestically, their haul of 97 points one short of Manchester City.

Klopp believes the Premier League giants must avoid making drastic changes every season, pointing to previous sides who have dominated.

"The big teams of the past – and I don't say we are a big team now, that will be decided in a couple of years – they stay together for a number of years. They do not need a lot of changes," he said.

"I am not comparing us with Barcelona of five, six or seven years ago but they stayed together. A new player came in and struggled and so it was the same players who played again.

"Man United had the class of '92. How long did they stay together? They changed a few after [Eric] Cantona got older and brought in Van the Man [Ruud van Nistelrooy] or whoever. You do not change completely.

"We are a good team together in a very difficult league with a lot of competitors desperate to get the position we are in.

"Nobody knows how it will look exactly but Sunday [the Community Shield loss to Manchester City] showed we will be fine and the rest is what we make of it."

The transfer window is now closed for Premier League clubs.

It was a contrasting deadline day for the 'big six', with some teams completing multiple deals and others being completely inactive.

We look back at the close season as a whole and assess who had the best window.


6. Liverpool

An uneventful deadline day rounded off a quiet window for the Champions League winners. Goalkeeper Adrian came in to replace Simon Mignolet and teenagers Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott were Liverpool's only other additions. Crucially, though, they retained all their major assets. Still, will they come to regret passing up on the chance to strengthen as they bid to keep pace with champions Manchester City?

5. Manchester United 

While offloading the unsettled Romelu Lukaku to Inter for £73million was probably the right call given his recent travails, the lack of a replacement does leave United shorter in the striker department. Harry Maguire was made the world's most-expensive defender in an £80m move from Leicester City, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was brought in to be the first-choice right-back and Daniel James is a promising talent, yet failing to reinforce the midfield could prove costly - even if Paul Pogba stays put.

4. Chelsea 

A transfer ban hindered the Blues' ability to register new players for 2019-20, but they were able to secure a permanent deal for Mateo Kovacic and can count on Christian Pulisic – who will have big boots to fill after Eden Hazard's exit to Real Madrid – following the end of his loan spell at Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea sent Danny Drinkwater to Burnley on loan until January 6 and allowed David Luiz to depart for Arsenal for £8m on deadline day, with the latter perhaps leaving them overly reliant on Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori for back-up.

3. Manchester City 

Pep Guardiola finally found a successor to Fernandinho in Rodri, who arrived from Atletico Madrid. Part-exchanging Danilo to Juventus reduced the fee they had to shell out for the impressive Joao Cancelo, meaning they have undoubtedly improved. Scott Carson and Pedro Porro arrived on deadline day but are unlikely to figure frequently, and they have managed to hold on to Leroy Sane - who will have to undergo surgery on his right knee after sustaining ACL damage in the Community Shield on Sunday - though Bayern Munich have until September 2 to complete a move..

2.  Tottenham

Two of the most exciting additions to the Premier League have come at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Tanguy Ndombele arriving for a club-record fee and Giovani Lo Celso coming in on a season-long loan with an option to buy. The deadline-day capture of Ryan Sessegnon for a reported £25m offers options down the left, and it is unlikely Vincent Janssen will be missed after departing for Monterrey. Spurs may have missed out on Philippe Coutinho and Paulo Dybala, but the window has been a success for Mauricio Pochettino's team.

1. Arsenal

The Gunners got their headline signing wrapped up long before deadline day with Nicolas Pepe joining from Lille for a club-record £72m fee, while the loan of Dani Ceballos from Madrid is extremely exciting. Gabriel Martinelli will provide back-up in attack, while the defence was strengthened with long-term target Kieran Tierney joining from Celtic for a reported £25m and David Luiz from Chelsea. Arsenal balanced the books by selling Alex Iwobi to Everton in a deal worth up to £34m and managed to get £4.6m for wantaway captain Laurent Koscielny.

Norwich City will be taking on one of the best sides in the world when they face Liverpool in their Premier League opener, according to Daniel Farke.

Last season's Championship winners travel to Anfield on Friday in their first game back in the top flight since suffering relegation in 2016.

Liverpool, in action at Anfield for the first time since winning the Champions League, start the season as second favourites for the title behind reigning champions Manchester City.

Yet despite the calibre of the opposition, Farke has promised to give Liverpool a run for their money.

"They are one of the best teams in the world. For me, probably the best at the moment," Farke said at his pre-match news conference. 

"It is the toughest task you can get to start. It's the first time they play back at Anfield after winning the Champions League title so there will be lots of optimism and they will be focused.

"I can't speak highly enough of Jurgen Klopp. He's a world-class coach, and the job he's done at Liverpool is outstanding.

"We know we are the underdog and not the big favourite but we won't raise the white flag. One thing I can promise is that we will be greedy to be there with a good performance, but also a good result."

Norwich recovered from a slow start to finish five points clear at the top of the Championship last term and have strengthened their squad during the close season.

Former Borussia Dortmund reserve coach Farke is happy with the quality of his side, despite the lack of any big-money arrivals, and has vowed not to be too defensive at Anfield.

"It is important that we take confidence from last season," he said. "Now we are at a different level and we have to prove it again. The proof is on the pitch.

"Last season we were able to break all the rules because people were telling us we needed to spend money. We are looking forward to breaking several rules this season.

"Even if it was possible to park the bus we could not. We will have to play with many offensive players and in order to be successful we will have to be good and keep the ball.

"If we have only to defend our goal we have no chance to get a good result. I believe in my players and my group and we have to find a solution to be competitive."

Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose are ruled out of the trip to Liverpool, while new signing Ibrahim Amadou is not expected to be considered for selection.

Jurgen Klopp refused to be drawn on whether Liverpool had been offered the chance to bring Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield.

Coutinho joined Barcelona from the Reds in a deal worth €160million midway through the 2017-18 season but has endured a disappointing time at Camp Nou.

The Brazil playmaker has been frequently touted for a potential departure to finance Neymar's mooted return to the LaLiga champions.

Arsenal and Tottenham have been suggested as destinations for Coutinho's Premier League return and, speaking ahead of Friday's season opener against Norwich City, Klopp elected to keep his cards close to his chest

"To part one of your question, no answer," he said.

"How we deal with things like this in the past gives us the opportunity to say nothing. We don't make big comments on these things."

Liverpool have only added youngsters Sven van den Berg and Harvey Elliott to the squad that amassed 97 points as Premier League runners-up before going on to become Champions League winners.

Klopp joked about his club's lack of activity on deadline day for England's top-flight clubs but is happy with their measured approach

"It's not really likely [Liverpool will sign anyone] so if you have something to do I think you should go to Everton," he chuckled. "I think they are more busy. But we will see.

"Our transfer window was checking options and thinking about it. That's how we do it always. If nothing happens, it was because the decision was not the right option for us.

"We will not make signings just for making signings. That makes no sense."

By contrast, Liverpool spent heavily last close-season to bring in Alisson, Fabinho and Naby Keita.

While the Brazilian duo were influential during an excellent campaign from Klopp's men, Keita struggled for form and fitness.

His manager sees an opportunity for the former RB Leipzig midfielder to kick on this season.

"There were ups and downs last year. He is still building 100 per cent fitness," he said.

“Naby looks completely different, this pre-season you can see that he is much more settled in the team.

"[His] body language is different, everything is different. We expect a lot, he expects a lot and rightly so."

Like Keita, Sadio Mane's return to training was delayed by participation in the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Senegal forward sat out last weekend's Community Shield at Wembley, where Liverpool were beaten on penalties by Manchester City after a 1-1 draw, but Klopp confirmed he is in contention to face Norwich along with James Milner, who has recovered from a muscular issue.

"[Mane] only had two weeks off, so he didn't lose a lot. He looks fit. Yesterday was the first session with the team," he added.

"He looks absolutely okay, in good spirits, looking forward to it. Yes, he's an option."

Jurgen Klopp's complaint over the Premier League start date is sure to infiltrate the season opener when Liverpool entertain Norwich City on Friday.

A combination of Copa America and Africa Cup of Nations commitments robbed Klopp of several stars for much of pre-season, leading the Reds boss to call for the English football calendar to be pushed back.

As the minutes tick down to that first whistle at Anfield, managers will be monitoring the condition of their players and making calls on fitness.

Do those in charge of globe-trotting squads have reason to fear sluggish starts, or can players push past heavy legs to set the league alight in the early weeks?

To consider the question, we have mined the Opta data to assess how three high-profile stars fared at the outset of the two seasons either side of last year's World Cup.

 

No concern over Kane

Harry Kane recently told reporters he feels as sharp as he has "for a long while" after a rare, relaxing off-season, which some view as the gateway to a fast start for the Tottenham striker.

Yet even in the aftermath of last year's long and emotionally exhausting run to the semi-finals in Russia, the England captain seemed to have no trouble getting right back up to speed for Spurs.

Kane scored five times over the course of the opening seven games last season, second only to a player he faced in the third-place play-off at the World Cup: Eden Hazard.

The haul was one fewer than he managed in the same period in 2017-18, which followed a tournament-free off-season.

Fitness did become an issue for Kane as a long 2018-19 campaign wore on and his workload for club and country warrants close inspection, but a longer holiday did little to boost his numbers at the beginning of the season.

Of course, not every player returned from the World Cup in the same psychological state as the tournament's Golden Boot winner.

De Gea better for the break?

David de Gea was simply not himself last season.

Confidence sapped by a poor World Cup, the Spain star dipped well below his usually impeccable standards back at Old Trafford and might have lost the number one shirt had Sergio Romero not suffered ill-timed injuries.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ultimately kept faith with Manchester United's first-choice keeper and can reasonably expect a rejuvenated De Gea to make the kind of solid start to the season he enjoyed in 2017-18.

Then, the former Atletico Madrid man posted a league-high save percentage of 88.2 through to the end of September.

Fast forward 12 months and, with international matters perhaps still on his mind, De Gea did not rank in the top 10 for that statistic across the same period.

Poorer save percentages plagued other Premier League goalkeepers in the immediate aftermath of attending the World Cup.

Manchester City's Ederson, Mat Ryan of Brighton and Hove Albion and Leicester City mainstay Kasper Schmeichel all failed to meet their respective averages after travelling to Russia.

The latter, like De Gea, failed to claw his way into the Premier League's top 10 over the first seven games last term.

Silva sets elite standard

As other players endure peaks and troughs, David Silva simply gets on with sustaining a level of excellence even in his advancing years.

The experienced midfielder started in Manchester City's triumph over Liverpool in the Community Shield last weekend and deserves a good deal of attention when the champions travel to London Stadium on Saturday.

Silva started the 2017-18 season in sublime style, registering a league-high six assists in the space of seven games and creating 23 chances in total – only team-mate Kevin De Bruyne (24) managed more.

He went on to win the title, attended the World Cup, and eased back into the Premier League by creating 20 chances before the end of September last season, more than any other player. All without real time to pause.

Could the 33-year-old help City set the pace yet again? West Ham would be safe to assume so: Silva has scored in four of his past five matches against them in all competitions.

David Wagner hopes Jurgen Klopp can end Liverpool's wait for a Premier League title this season but acknowledges it will be tough in an "unpredictable" division.

Liverpool have not won the English top flight since the 1989-90 season, finishing just one point short of domestic treble-winners Manchester City last season.

The Reds claimed the Champions League - their sixth such triumph - but there is a desire to conquer the domestic league again.

Wagner is a friend and former colleague of Liverpool boss Klopp and will be supporting them in the coming campaign.

"I don't really believe, but I can hope Jurgen Klopp will go even further and win the Premier League title," he told Omnisport.

"But I know it's anything but easy. He will work very hard on it with his boys, but this league is so unpredictable.

"There are so many big games and then there are the games against those apparently 'small clubs', who are great, too. It is such a tough league.

"What Klopp has shown so far is incredible and I really wish for him to become [a] champion. But I don't know if it will actually happen."

Wagner left the Premier League as Huddersfield Town tumbled towards relegation last season.

He is now back coaching with Schalke, the bitter rivals of Borussia Dortmund, where he and Klopp were last united, but insists a return to the Bundesliga is not a backwards step.

"No, it's not a step back at all," he said.

"If I didn't want to do it, then I wouldn't have done it.

"Nobody said that I had to say 'yes' here. That was not the case. I wanted to have it that way.

"I do not see it as a step backwards either. But I do understand, and it's not a secret that the Premier League is currently the best in purely sporting terms.

"The number of top players there is outstanding and the coaches are of the highest quality. There's no denying that."

Jurgen Klopp has explained how he learnt English watching Friends, though he considers himself "a bit smarter" than the smooth-talking Joey Tribbiani.

Liverpool manager Klopp is now a fluent English speaker, but before mastering the Scouse accent, he gained the basics from hugely popular American sitcom Friends.

"[It was] watching Friends, because it's easy to understand," he told BBC 5 live.

Klopp added: "You try to watch movies, because that's next, because in movies they speak dialect, stuff like that, and it's not really well pronounced.

"Trash talk and all this stuff and you have to follow.

"The easiest to follow for Germans in English is Friends. It's an easy conversation. You can understand pretty much each word pretty early, so that's why we use that."

The Reds boss struggled to work out which character he relates to, though, and was compared to Joey.

Klopp did acknowledge Matt LeBlanc's character made up for his lack of brains with his smooth-talking and memorable catchphrase.

“No, no, no, no. I like the girls more than the boys," he said.

"But I cannot play a girl.

"Joey? Yeah... Unfortunately, I'm a bit smarter than the Joey role but my talk with the girls was never as good as his.

"'How you doing?' It was obviously not that easy in my life!"

Bournemouth have signed Liverpool winger Harry Wilson on a season-long loan deal.

The Wales international starred for Derby County in the Championship last term, scoring 16 goals in 43 league games under now Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.

Wilson, who previously impressed in the second tier on loan at Hull City, returned to feature in Liverpool’s tricky pre-season, scoring in friendlies against Borussia Dortmund and Lyon.

But amid reported interest from Newcastle United and Aston Villa, Wilson has been allowed to go out on loan again, linking up with Bournemouth.

He told the club's official website: "It's great to be here, great to finally get everything sorted and I can't wait to meet all the staff and the lads.

"When Liverpool informed me it was a possibility to come here I was keen to get it sorted. I want to play Premier League football and with a great team like Bournemouth.

"With the style of play that Bournemouth are likely to play, I feel that I can fit right in and help the team a lot."

Wilson has played just once for the Liverpool first team, making his debut in the FA Cup in 2017.

Virgil van Dijk warned Harry Maguire that his move to Manchester United means pressure after becoming the world's most expensive defender.

Maguire swapped Leicester City for Premier League giants United in a world-record deal reportedly worth £80million following months of speculation.

The England international, who signed a six-year contract with the option of a further season at Old Trafford, and his transfer to United is believed to have surpassed the £75m Liverpool paid Southampton for Van Dijk in January 2018.

Van Dijk, who led Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2018-19, knows the pressure associated with huge price tags and he had advice for Maguire.

"Good luck to him," he said. "I can't say anything about that because there was always going to be a time when it was going to change.

"That's the market. He doesn't have any influence on that but I wish him well. The price comes with pressure, but it doesn't change too much because you always have pressure at big clubs like Man United. But I wish him well."

"Just focus on doing what you love to do and play your best game," Van Dijk said when asked how he coped with the pressure of a hefty price tag. "Get your qualities out of the pitch, enjoy your game and don't think about the other things.

"It is not easy to completely shut off all the pressure. Personally, I like to put things in perspective. Quite a lot of things are more important than playing football and what we do, we are blessed.

"We can do what we love to do and also to play for Liverpool – they are such a big club. You need to enjoy it but the pressure will always be there."

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of former West Ham goalkeeper Adrian on a free transfer.

The 32-year-old has joined the European champions as a replacement for Simon Mignolet, who has left for Club Brugge in a reported £6.4million deal.

"I'm feeling really happy; really happy to be here and to work in this great club and start doing my stuff on the pitch as soon as possible," Adrian, who spent six seasons with West Ham before leaving at the end of last term, told Liverpool's website.

"I'm very ambitious, I come here to try to win everything, to try to push Ali [Alisson] from the first minute and to make us better.

"Obviously, I want to win titles. I come here to fight for all the competitions. We have many competitions ahead – we’re going to fight for it and try to get them.

"I'm looking forward to playing my first game at Anfield and to win as many games as we can."

Mignolet's departure was confirmed by the Reds on Monday after Club Brugge had announced his arrival following a medical on Sunday.

In a message on Twitter, the Belgium international said it had been "an incredible honour to represent one of the biggest clubs in the world, and to achieve things that few players ever manage to achieve".

He added: "I want to take this opportunity to thank all the fans for their support during the good times and the bad. I also want to thank all the coaches and managers I've worked with during my spell here; their knowledge and expertise has been invaluable.

"I've shared the pitch with some fantastic players over the years, but the current squad is the best I've ever been a part of. I'll never forget that night in Madrid [when Liverpool won the Champions League final in June], and I'm glad I got to share it with such a terrific group of lads.

"It's been a great ride. There have been ups, downs and everything in between, but I'll always look back on my time at Anfield with fondness. I have no regrets - I've given my all, and I've always done my best to wear the shirt with pride, and to represent the club with dignity and professionalism.

"Once part of the family, always part of the family. Deep inside, I'll always be a Red."

Georginio Wijnaldum has heralded the strength of Liverpool's squad and does not believe their quiet transfer window should be assessed yet.

The Reds brought in key figures such as Alisson and Fabinho ahead of last season, with Virgil van Dijk joining in the previous window, but they have been quiet this time around.

Liverpool, who finished second in the Premier League but won the Champions League, have only brought in teenagers Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott so far.

However, manager Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool have a squad capable of challenging again due to the returns of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin and Rhian Brewster, who were both injured last term.

Wijnaldum agrees and says judgements on Liverpool's decision not to invest must be withheld until the end of the campaign.

"We have to see," the Netherlands international told Sky Sports. "We have a good group now who have played together for a few years, we're already strong.

"When you sign players, sometimes they need time to settle in. I had it, [Andy] Robertson had it, Fabinho had it, [Naby] Keita had it. There's no guarantee when you sign a player that he can play immediately the way we want him to play.

"But we have to see. People will say, 'You needed a signing' if the season does not go well, but if it goes well, they will say we did not need a signing.

"We will see how it goes. We have players who were injured coming back from injury so the squad is already bigger and better than last season."

Liverpool's season began with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield, but Wijnaldum insists he is enjoying a growing rivalry.

"I like it. They push us to be even better, we push them to be even better," he said. "I think that's why last season we both had a lot of points.

"When you look at each other, you know that you have to perform because otherwise the other team will walk away [with the title]."

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