Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Thursday January 17 2013
Defeat to your biggest rivals is never a good thing but there have been plenty of positive noises emanating from L1 since last Sunday's defeat to Manchester United; many people feeling the second-half showing warranted at least a draw, as opposed to the 2-1 defeat that was ultimately recorded.
The contrast from a nervous, negative opening 45 minutes to a front-foot, attack-minded closing period was indeed stark and left observers wondering why Brendan Rodgers and his side didn't play in such a manner from the off?
With difficult trips to Arsenal and Manchester City on the horizon, preceded by a visit to Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, the Reds will be hopeful of showing more of their recent progress against Norwich City this weekend.
The Canaries visit Anfield in much better shape than when Liverpool defeated them 5-2 at Carrow Road back in September. A run of home victories has helped to lift Chris Hughton's side to 12th, putting seven points between themselves and the relegation zone. The hosts remain 8th and are nine points off of the elusive Champions League places.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers speaking at his pre-match press conference: "It will be a really difficult game for us. They came to Anfield last season and played very well. This season they picked up after the win we had at Carrow Road, where we played very well.
"It was a very good result and performance for us. We mustn't forget we could have been better - we conceded two very sloppy goals. Our offensive game was very good, but we made mistakes.
"That's something we must rectify going forward, because we've got the ability to create many chances. It's important we keep our concentration."
The Reds suddenly have an abundance of options in the attacking third of the field. Rodgers must decide whether new signing Daniel Sturridge and broken foot victim Fabio Borini are fit enough to play from the start. Sturridge is the most likely to get the nod after two goals in his first two appearances for the club. The decision could conceivably lead to a slight tweaking of the usual 4-3-3 system with the former Chelsea man partnering top-scorer Luis Suarez through the middle. Alternatively Suarez will be moved into one of the wider attacking positions from which he operated successfully during his time in Dutch football playing for Ajax. With youngster's Raheem Sterling and Suso still progressing nicely and Stewart Downing enjoying perhaps his best run in the side since joining last summer from Aston Villa, Rodgers finally faces a number of difficult selection decisions. Defensively, Jose Enrique is around a month away from returning from a hamstring tear whilst long-term absentee Martin Kelly (knee) is pencilled in for a March comeback. Joining them on the sidelines is young right-back Jon Flanagan who suffered knee ligament damage playing for the U21s on Monday and is expected to be out for upto 12 weeks. Elsewhere, Jordan Henderson is pushing for a recall to the starting line-up after a number of impressive recent performances and either Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen could make way to accommodate him.
Reina, Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Henderson, Allen, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge.
After two goals in his opening two games, Sturridge is likely to be handed a first Premier League start for Liverpool on Saturday. The recent £12m capture from Chelsea has impressed so far with his pace and directness and, following an impressive second-half display at Old Trafford, the majority of fans will be salivating over the thought of the 23-year-old and top-scorer Suarez forming a formidable partnership up front. Plenty have questioned the player's attitude in the past but so far on Merseyside Sturridge has said all the right things and simply let his feet do the talking. There has never been a question mark over the ex-Manchester City man's talent and the early signs are that he may just have found the right club to finally let it flourish.
Influential striker Grant Holt should be fit to return to the starting eleven after making his comeback from a hamstring injury as a substitute against Newcastle last weekend. Midfielders Jonny Howson (illness) and Andrew Surman (knee) are both expected to be available for selection despite earlier doubts. England international goalkeeper John Ruddy will remain out for another month however due to a thigh problem meaning capable understudy Mark Bunn will continue between the sticks. Also definitely ruled out through injury are experienced striker Steve Morison (thigh) and Scottish full-back Steven Whittaker (hip). Meanwhile, Midfielder Jacob Butterfield has joined Championship side Crystal Palace on an emergency loan deal until February 19th 2013. Defender Elliott Ward is also now out on loan until the end of the season with Nottingham Forest.
Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Johnson, Snodgrass, E Bennett, Hoolahan, Pilkington, Holt.
Pilkington is currently Norwich's joint-top Premier League scorer with four goals and the wideman has been instrumental to the club's rise up the table. At one point towards the end of last year Pilkington found the net in three successive home matches, each won by the odd goal. The results formed part of a 10 match unbeaten run that temporarily at least had the Canaries above Liverpool and just four points off the top four. In addition to providing a goal-threat, the 24-year-old also creates numerous chances for others and can play down both flanks as well as through the middle. Strong with both feet, the Reds rearguard will have to be alert every time Pilkington gets the ball.
• There have been 59 games between the two teams historically with Liverpool recording 31 wins to Norwich City's 14. There have also been 14 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 113 goals in the fixtures compared to 63 by Norwich.
• For Norwich's last win over the Reds you need to go back to May 1994 when Jeremy Goss scored the only goal of the game. The match was significant for being the last to be played in front of the old standing Kop at Anfield.
• Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is looking to score his third hat-trick in succession against the Canaries following previous efforts in the 5-2 and 3-0 away victories played during 2012. Four of his goals in the two games were even scored from outside the box.
• After a 10-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, Norwich have now gone five without a win (W0 D1 L4).
• Liverpool are likely to be tested aerially by the visitors who have scored 38% of their goals via headers, a league-high proportion (9/24).
• Reds skipper Steven Gerrard has a joint-divisional high eight goal assists this season, a tally which surprisingly is just one fewer than his own personal record for a single campaign.
Michael Oliver is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The Northumberland based referee has taken charge of 21 games to date this season and shown 52 yellow and one red card in the process. Both Liverpool and Norwich had games officiated by the 27-year-old last month; Liverpool beat Southampton 1-0 at Anfield whilst Norwich were dumped out of the Carling Cup 4-1 at the hands of Aston Villa. Back in 2010 Oliver became the youngest-ever referee to take charge of a Premier League game and he's been a member of the Select Group of Referees ever since.
Enthused by the prospect of Sturridge playing from the start, most Liverpool fans will see this fixture as a guaranteed three points. Norwich will have other ideas however and their recent travelling record proves they have become a lot harder to beat with five of their last eight Premier League away games drawn (W1 D5 L2). Given the difficult run of fixtures that follows, maximum points could be crucial to Liverpool's overall ambitions this season. So far, much like last year, their inconsistency has been frustrating but the side should at least improve on the previous finish of eighth. Vital Liverpool predicts 3-1.
Liverpool - FA Cup v Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park on Sunday 27th January 2013, kick off 4.00pm.
Norwich City - FA Cup v Luton Town at Carrow Road on Saturday 26th January 2013, kick off 3.00pm.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
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Date:Thursday January 17 2013
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