Carrow Road, Norwich
September 29, 2012 | 15.00 GMT
Things have not gone quite according to plan for Liverpool and Norwich who find themselves at the bottom of the table after 5 rounds without posting a single win. Neither team has been able to get off to the start they wanted under the new management after the departure of popular managers Kenny Dalglish and Paul Lambert.
Norwich City have been struggling for form since the opening week when they were comprehensively beaten 5-0 at Craven Cottage. A series of draws against Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham and West Ham United followed before they narrowly tasted defeat against Newcastle last week. Norwich City have been labelled as one of the favourites to be relegated this season and Chris Hughton must already be feeling the pressure. A win is a must for The Canaries but the fixture list has done them no favours as they have to play Liverpool and Arsenal next at home with an away trip to Chelsea in between.
Liverpool have had to endure their worst start to the season since 1903. A tough set of fixtures, some terrible luck and individual errors have seen The Reds collect a total of only 2 points from their first 5 games despite playing some good football. Rodgers’ new look team is still a work in progress and the patient possession based approach which he has been preaching will take time to yield results. However, the team must now learn how to grind out results if it has to haul themselves up from the relegation zone. Liverpool played well away from home against Sunderland and were unlucky not to walk away with 3 points. They put in another good performance away at The Hawthorns in the Capitol One Cup where the team came from behind to win 2-1. Rodgers will be hoping that they can repeat the performance against a struggling Norwich City side.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Midfield Simon Lappin and Steven Whittaker are set to miss this clash due to ankle injuries while Sebastian Bassong was substituted due to hamstring tightness at the Newcastle game and will probably have a late fitness test. Elliot Bennet returned to the team in Norwich City’s League Cup triumph over Doncaster Rovers and may feature for The Canaries at some stage in the game. Anthony Pilkington is set to return after missing out on the last two games. No players are suspended and Chris Hughton should be able to field a strong side.
Norwich City often played a diamond or 4-5-1 formation under Paul Lambert. Under Chris Hughton however, Norwich City tend to play a traditional 4-4-2 with Snodgrass and Pilkington providing the threat down the flanks.
Hughton is expected to stick to the defence he used against The Toons. Ruddy is expected back in goal after being rested for the League Cup. Martin and Garrido will play as the full backs while Barnett and Bassong are the likely centre back pair. Turner slot in as centre back in case the latter is not passed fit in time.
Johnson and Howson will try and win the midfield battle which might prove difficult against the 3 man midfield of Liverpool. Hughton likes to play with wingers and much of Norwich City’s attack will come from the flanks. Snodgrass has had a good start to the campaign and is likely to be a threat down the right flank.
Steve Morison is expected to retain his place this weekend and is sure to be a nuisance for the Liverpool defence. Simeon Jackson too will be looking to capitalise on increasingly common defensive lapses from The Reds.
Probable Starting Line-up: Ruddy, Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington, Jackson, Morison
Liverpool have had some rotten luck with injuries this season with key players like Lucas and Agger out injured. Martin Kelly ruptured his ACL in the game against Manchester United and is set to miss the remainder of the season. Fabio Borini is also out with an ankle injury and Joe Cole is still not fit enough to play and Jonjo Shelvey will miss the game through suspension.
Rodgers has persisted with his 4-3-3 formation in all the games so far and players are slowly starting to understand their individual roles within the team.
Reina is expected to be back in goal after being rested for the game against West Bromwich Albion. With the absence of Kelly, Johnson is expected to switch to the right back slot with Enrique taking his place on the opposite flank. Agger remains an injury concern and Coates is likely to pair Martin Skrtel if the former is not deemed fit.
With Shelvey out, a midfield spot is up for grabs and this is likely to go to Nuri Sahin after his impressive display against West Brom at The Hawthorns. The Turkish international will pair up with Joe Allen in central midfield with Steven Gerrard likely to be pushed further forward. The midfield battle will be pivotal for Liverpool’s chances and the Liverpool captain will be a key figure in this game. Gerrard will drop deep to provide the extra man in midfield and will also be expected to provide a more attacking edge to the Liverpool line-up.
Borini is likely to miss this game which could mean Assaidi could earn his first start in the Premier League after impressing in the previous game. Sterling is likely to retain his starting berth on the right ahead of Stewart Downing after his eye catching displays over the last few weeks.
Luis Suarez will lead the attack and will provide the main goal threat for Liverpool. The Uruguayan has not quite found his best form yet and will be looking to get on the score sheet against Norwich City. Suarez scored an exceptional hatrick last season in the same fixture and will be looking for an encore.
Probable Starting Line-up: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Coates, Enrique, Allen, Sahin, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez, Assaidi.
TheHardTackle Players to watch:
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s Captain has been their most important player for the better part of a decade now. Gerrard scored a wonderful goal against old enemies Manchester United. With Shelvey absent he is expected to be given a more advanced role against Norwich. Gerrard will pose a real goal threat from midfield and his passing ability is likely to benefit the front three who all have good movement. Gerrard will also drop deep on occasions and play as the extra man to help win the midfield battle.
Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City)
The Scottish winger is entering his peak footballing years and has been one of the major attacking threats for Norwich City. Snodgrass has scored one of only two goals scored by Norwich this season and his presence down the right flank will pose problems for Liverpool. Rodgers likes to play with his full backs high up the pitch and Snodgrass will be looking to exploit the space left in behind. Enrique has had some indifferent form of late and the Spanish left back will have his task cut out.
TheHardTackle Prediction: Norwich City 0-1 Liverpool
With both teams struggling to find the back of the net, this game is not likely to be a high scoring affair. However, Liverpool have played the better football and look the more likely of the two teams to get a goal. Hughton will have his defence well organised and we could see the game being goalless well into the second half. Liverpool could be expected to nick a goal towards the later stages of the game once the Norwich City defence tires.