What’s been interesting about Norwich’s opening to the season is that although they’ve amounted a very solid seven points, the consensus around Colney is that they should have done better. If it weren’t for Simon Hooper’s ineptitude and Jack Butland’s heroics, Norwich could quite easily be in the top five. But that’s football. Inevitably there are games that don’t go the way they should.
However the performances thus far have been very encouraging and that gives Alex Neil and his merry men an air of confidence as they head to Anfield this Sunday. A place that is usually an unhappy hunting ground for Norwich is now without its main predator – Luis Suarez. It may seem naive to pin all of their success in recent times on him, but there’s no hiding from the facts. Ever since John Ruddy’s incredible performance on Merseyside in 2011, Luis Suarez made it his personal mission to never be denied again. In the last five meetings, the Canaries have been shot down twelve times by the Uruguayan marksman. And we’re not just talking tap-ins or open goals or poachers’ finishes. No – goals of the highest calibre, from wherever, whenever. In fact, I’d be surprised if you can find a player in the history of football whose had a better set of performances, scoring a better set of goals, against one single club.
Liverpool are now having learn about life after Luis. It’s safe to say it’s not been the smoothest of adaptions. Sturridge has been plagued with injuries, Ballotelli’s stay was short and uninspiring, and now they’re hoping that big-money signing Christian Benteke can resolve the problems, however there are questions over the service he’s being offered.
But the pressure is piling up for Brendan Rodgers with performances having been below-par. Dejan Lovren’s involvement has regularly been criticised with the dependable Sahko being outcasted on the bench. Meanwhile they’ve lacked imagination going forward with the Belgian striker appearing isolated. Many are even calling for the manager’s head, with rumours and speculation linking Liverpool to former Dortmund manager, Jurgen Klopp – a move that would be popular unless results take a turn for the better.
Rodgers’ team selection for their Europa League game vs Bordeaux on Thursday was notably cautious; key figures were protected to ensure that they’re fresh for Sunday. Rodgers cannot afford to lose another – especially not to little ol’ Norwich.
Brendan Rodgers has proven himself as a manager. He’s done fantastically well over his career. (Alex Neil, Norwich City manager)
Yet despite their current woes, the majority would still expect Liverpool to turn over the visitors Norwich. That fact alone might actually work in the Canaries’ favour. Having already got seven points on the board, they can make the trip without any pressure. Given Alex Neil’s ambitious attitude though, Norwich will be going there to try and win, and to be quite frank, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t take all three points from the Europa League participants.
After all, it’s a crucial mid-table battle, or at least that’s how the current standings would have you believe. Norwich in ninth, Liverpool on their tails in tenth with a marginally worse goal difference.
Liverpool have good midfielders who can keep the ball well and I’m personally really looking forward to going against them. (Alex Tettey, midfielder)
Form (least to most recent):
Norwich City: L W D L W
Liverpool: W W D L L
Liverpool approach the game on the back of two defeats, most recently away to Manchester United where Anthony Martial scored on his debut. Before that, West Ham visited Anfield and dismantled the home side 3-0. If West Ham can do that, why can’t Norwich? They can, and that’s exactly what Alex Neil will be hoping to achieve – within reason anyway.
In stark contrast, Norwich will be well ‘up for it’ after their 3-1 victory over Bournemouth who were made to look profoundly average by the speed of City’s attacks.
One would expect Alex Neil’s line-up to remain the same, other than in the right-back position where Whittaker will return with Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom being ineligible to play against his parent club. Last week versus Bournemouth, the combination of Brady and Jarvis was formidable meaning there is no need to rush Olsson back to left-back. Jerome’s goal means he will remain up front with Dieumerci Mbokani being brought on as an impact substitute.
In recent years Norwich would approach this game with a try-not-to-lose attitude, but this time you get the feeling Jarvis, Redmond and most significantly Hoolahan will all feature in a Norwich side who mean business. My prediction is one perhaps influenced somewhat by my team persuasion, but I genuinely do feel Norwich can get something given the two sides’ current form.
I’m going for a 2-2. Leave yours below.
Read a Q&A with Read Liverpool editor Ben Smith to get his opposition preview of this match – click here.