If there were ever a match I felt I could write about with more knowledge than most it would be the one that we have at the weekend. Liverpool will welcome Norwich City to Anfield, we’ will know doubt hope that we can eradicate the memories of the identical fixture from last season. I was at the game last year, if you can’t remember or have tried extremely hard to forget it, I’ll refresh your memory. Anfield was oddly quiet, nervous, it had a feel of a ground that knew it wasn’t going to go their way. I’ve made it sound like Liverpool got a hiding, when in reality they inflicted one upon Norwich without taking all 3 points. Craig Bellamy finished calmly in the first half against his old club and at that moment it was looking like a routine home win, but as was the story of our season last term, chance after chance, save after save, poor finish after poor finish, merged into what became a frustrating and all too familiar scene at Anfield last year. Chances weren’t taken and a Grant Holt superman like header in front of the Kop combined with some fine saves from Norwich goalkeeper, John Ruddy saw Norwich take a point away from Anfield, and they weren’t the only ones last year.
I live in Norfolk and have connections to Norwich which mean it’s most certainly a team I have not only a keen interest in but will to win in every game, EXCEPT of course when they face Liverpool. When the Reds played at Carrow Road in late September it was a must win for the Reds, after a tough run of games against Arsenal, United and City it was a game Brendan Rodgers would have been desperate to get a result, with the hope that it would set up a spell of consistency. 2 minutes in and Luis Suarez scored and little over 90 minutes later Liverpool had scored 5 goals away from home in a 5-2 win, Luis Suarez got the match ball after a 2nd consecutive hat trick against Norwich.
You may look at this fixture and think it’s a routine win for Liverpool at home against inferior opposition, but that simply won’t be the case. (I’ve no doubt made sure we win 5-0 with that line, get those bets on) Since the 5-2 win, Norwich went on a run of 9 games without defeat and were beaten only by Barcelona in Europe’s top leagues in the form table at that time. They held firm to deny Manchester United and Arsenal at home and got a valuable point away at an inform Everton. Chris Hughton has got them organised, the main difference between Paul Lambert’s Norwich and the current side is their ability to frustrate a team. Last season they got 2 clean sheets all year, the first of which came this weekend last year against Chelsea. This year they’ve already clocked 6, including those wins against Arsenal and Manchester United. That being said, Norwich’s Christmas period form has been rocky, defeats to superior opposition has seen the wind kicked out of them in recent weeks. a win against Peterborough in the cup and a point against Newcastle have seen them stop the rot but will feel there’s still room for improvement.
Hurt and be Hurt
Norwich have been deadly from set pieces this year and with Robert Snodgrass’ arrival in the summer from Leeds, they’ve added quality to an area in which they were already capable. At the weekend against United we had Martin Skrtel in the wall at set pieces that were clearly going to be crossed in, if you fail to mark men well in the middle, Norwich will score. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel MUST pick up Grant Holt at every set piece. Fail to prepare against Norwich’s set plays and prepare to fail. The way to beat Norwich from what I’ve seen is to really get at their back four, despite Sebastian Bassong being brilliant for them this year, they’re still vulnerable to something we’ve just armed ourselves with. Pace. No team likes to deal with pace but if Liverpool can stretch the game out wide and punish the spaces between centre and full back it’ll be a winning formula. Norwich are comfortable on the ball, get in their faces, no team likes that either but it’s the one thing I’d love to see done more regularly by our boys. In the first half against United we gave them far too much respect, get in their faces, force them into mistakes, we did that after the arrival of Sturridge and got our rewards.
The midfield battle
I’ve no idea which trio Rodgers will go with, of course there’s actually a chance he’ll play 4 across the middle with Sturridge and Suarez up top, but I don’t expect him to go with that. Norwich will try to flood the middle with 1/2 players holding and Pilkington and Snodgrass on either wing to supply and support Grant Holt. Wes Hoolahan, Norwich’s most creative attacking force will sit behind Holt but drop into midfield when needs be. To counter their set up I think a Lucas Gerrard duo with Suarez at the top of the triangle will be the most effective way of putting pressure on Norwich. This means I believe Sturridge will make his home league debut but not see out the full 90 minutes, so Henderson would replace him and sit behind Suarez. Guess work at it’s very best.
The difference will be….
Luis Suarez, I think he could make in 3 hat tricks on the bounce. His ability to get in between the lines and create his own space will be vital, players remember the games they play well in and Luis Suarez’ memories of Norwich will be good, 6 goals in 2 games, he’s ready to enjoy the game and a Luis Suarez enjoying a game of football is a terrifying thought for anyone.
What do you think? What will be the difference for Liverpool to win?
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