Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Friday April 18 2014
Barclays Premier League
This current Liverpool FC side are now just four games from greatness but the next three fixtures look particularly challenging.
Sunday's opponents, Norwich City, are just one place above the dropzone and, with a tough run of remaining fixtures, desperately need to take something from the encounter.
Sunderland's result against Manchester City in midweek showed just how dangerous teams battling for their lives can be to the main title protagonists.
The league leaders face second-placed Chelsea next weekend but Brendan Rodgers rightly continues to push the mantra of concentrating solely on the next game.
Norwich haven't beaten Liverpool since 1994 and all three contests since the Northern Irishman took over at Anfield have finished in impressive victories with the Reds notching five goals on each occasion.
New Canaries manager Neil Adams takes charge for just a second time after succeeding Chris Hughton who was sacked earlier this month after a run of just four wins in 19 league games.
Rodgers: "Teams can look that they are playing teams towards the bottom of the league and that those games might be easy, but actually it's the contrast - they can be even more difficult.
"People are fighting for their livelihoods, fighting for their lives, fighting for their children, fighting for the supporters. And they're fighting to play in the best league in the world. That is the nuts and bolts of it."
Despite defeat last time out there were plenty of positives taken from the performance and consequently changes are likely to be kept to a minimum. Adams made six alterations for the loss at Craven Cottage with captain Sebastien Bassong the most notable absentee. The former Tottenham Hotspur centre-back might be recalled for the visit of Liverpool alongside another player surprisingly left out in midfielder Wes Hoolahan. Up front it is likely to be a straight choice between Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper with the pair very rarely used in tandem. Injury wise, only defender Elliott Bennett (knee) is definitely missing.
Ruddy, Martin, Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Fer, Johnson, Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Redmond, Hooper.
The 20-year-old winger has been a standout performer in a difficult season collectively. Blessed with an abundance of pace and ability, Redmond has been likened by many observers to Liverpool's Raheem Sterling. The England U21 international appears to have matured as the season's progressed and now regularly provides an end product to his direct approach play. The £3million summer signing will be eager to provide more goals though having found the net just once in 30 appearances since joining from Birmingham City.
Striker Daniel Sturridge is a big doubt after limping out of last weekend's dramatic 3-2 win over Manchester City with a hamstring strain. His absence would be an added blow to a side which will already be devoid of England colleague Jordan Henderson through suspension. The midfielder, who will miss the next three games for his red card against the Citizens, is likely to be replaced by Joe Allen. Lucas Leiva and Victor Moses are the leading candidates to replace Sturridge should he fail to prove his fitness in time. Lucas' inclusion would lead to either Sterling or Philippe Coutinho being pushed further forward to support Luis Suarez. Left-back Jose Enrique remains sidelined with a long-term knee injury.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Gerrard, Allen, Lucas, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez.
Norwich's defenders will no doubt be having sleepless nights over the prospect of facing Suarez again. The Uruguayan has scored 11 goals in five matches against the Canaries including three hat-tricks. In the probable absence of strike-partner Sturridge, Suarez is also set to play as the main attacker once more as he looks to reach 30 league goals this term. The 27-year-old was this week named as one of three Reds on the PFA's six-man Players' Player of the Year shortlist.
• Liverpool and Norwich have met 53 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand with 29 wins to 11 and 13 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 106 goals compared to a tally of 52 by the Canaries.
• Liverpool have won the last four meetings in a row, scoring a whopping 18 goals in the process (5-1, 5-0, 2-5, 0-3).
• Another three points on Sunday would mean 11 top flight victories in succession - only once have the Merseysiders achieved 12 during a single season (1982).
• It might not be as easy as some are expecting though because Norwich have only conceded 13 home goals in the Premier League this season, fewer than Liverpool at Anfield and a figure bettered by only three teams.
• Liverpool's 93 league goals scored so far this campaign is their highest ever tally in a top-flight season and not since West Bromwich Albion in 1965-66 has a team scored over 90 and not won the title.
• In addition to the likes of Suarez and Sturridge, the Reds possess the top scoring defender in the Premier League this season in Martin Skrtel (seven goals).
Andre Marriner is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The West Midlands based whistle blower has taken charge of 34 games so far this season, showing 101 yellow cards and a staggering 12 red. Previously the 43-year-old has overseen two games involving Liverpool this term; the 1-0 win over Manchester United back in September and October's 2-2 draw with Newcastle United. Marriner has been a part of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures since 2005 and joined FIFA's list for international and European games in 2009.
As Rodgers alluded to in the week, this type of game could perhaps prove to be even more decisive than the clashes between the leading trio. With Sunderland taking points off City this past week and Chelsea recently coming unstuck at Crystal Palace, it is important Liverpool continue to put the lesser sides to the sword. To be champions, the Reds can now afford to draw one of their final four games, providing they win the other three. With Chelsea up next it would be great to keep that lifeline in the back pocket for at least another week. Given their predicament, Norwich and their supporters need to rise to the occasion and therefore it is unlikely to be the cakewalk of our four previous meetings. We will miss Henderson, and of course Sturridge if he is unavailable, but there should still be more than enough quality on show to make it eleven on the bounce.
Vital Liverpool predicts a 3-1 LFC win
Liverpool - Premier League vs. Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday 27th April 2014, kick off 2.05pm BST.
Norwich City - Premier League vs. Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday 26th April 2014, kick off 5.30pm BST.
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Date:Friday April 18 2014
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