21 October 2011

Liverpool v Norwich 10.22.11

12:30pm ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 01.03.05
3-0 Liverpool (h) 09.25.04
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.29.95
4-0 Liverpool (h) 01.02.95

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 United (h); 2-0 Everton (a); 2-1 Wolves (h)
Norwich: 3-1 Swansea (h); 0-2 United (a); 2-1 Sunderland (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 4; Adam, Carroll, Gerrard, Henderson, Skrtel 1
Norwich: Pilkington 3; Barnett, de Laet, Holt, Hoolahan, Johnson, R Martin, Morison 1

Referee: Peter Walton

Guess at a line-up:
Reina
Kelly Carragher Agger Enrique
Henderson Gerrard Adam Downing
Carroll Suarez

There will be a temptation to ring changes against "weaker opposition" at Anfield and with a trip to Stoke on Wednesday, in a competition Dalglish seems to be taking very seriously. I hope that isn't the case.

With Lucas suspended, it looks as if Liverpool will start both Gerrard and Adam in central midfield. That pairing is frightfully defense-free, and if Liverpool line up in the 4-2-2-2, I'd expect Henderson on the right to offer some extra support. Henderson hasn't been a defensive stalwart on when on the right by any means, but his inclination to come inside would add a bit more security to a potentially very open midfield.

And I do expect Liverpool to revert to the 4-2-2-2. That Carroll "played" 90 mostly harmless minutes in Tuesday's friendly shouldn't preclude him from returning to the starting XI, with Liverpool reverting to the two-striker set-up we saw against Wolves and Everton. If the side keeps the same 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 formation as against United, we'll see Suarez up top, Kuyt and Downing on the flanks, and some combination of Gerrard, Adam, and Henderson (or possibly Spearing) in central midfield.

This week's (deservedly) much-maligned friendly was at least a boon for Liverpool's defense in allowing pitch time for the returning Agger and Johnson. Agger looked fitter than Johnson against Rangers, playing 78 minutes compared to Johnson's 64. Johnson, recovering from a hamstring injury, needs to be protected more than Agger, who suffered a rib injury. At the same time, Kelly's looked a more-than-able deputy, while Skrtel still has to propensity to frighten at times. But as much as I appreciate Liverpool's homegrown right-back, Johnson's overlapping ability in attack will add another dimension to the side, complimenting Enrique's bursts on the opposite flank and combining well with the talents of both Henderson or Kuyt.

Quietly in ninth, Norwich have adapted to the Premiership quicker than expected. Rather than last season's 4-4-2 diamond, Norwich now usually line up in a more pragmatic 4-4-1-1. Wins over Swansea, Sunderland, and Bolton; and draws against Wigan and Stoke see the club on 11 points after eight matches, just three behind Liverpool. Losses came against Chelsea and United – both away and sealed with late strikes – as well as a narrow defeat when hosting West Brom five weeks ago.

Steve Morison's keeping last season's hero Grant Holt out of the starting XI, while left winger Pilkington is Norwich's top scorer. The Canaries' two injury concerns are both in central defense, and are both former Liverpool players: Zak Whitbread is still recovering from a hamstring injury while Danny Ayala did his knee in his first start after joining the club. Those injuries in defense help account for the fact that Norwich is one of only two Premiership clubs which have failed to keep a clean sheet in the league this season. That Norwich's defense audibly creaks and groans will undoubtedly perk Suarez's vulcan ears up.

Even if Norwich plays some of their aesthetically pleasing football from last season, this will be another test of Liverpool's ability to break down a pragmatic, resilient side. Which, as we're all well aware, they've had varying levels of success with, both home and away. This season's home win against Bolton is an excellent template for taking the game to the opposition.

1 comment:

McrRed said...

Good points you make Nate...
(Sounding a bit Yoda-like, there)

Because of pilkington, the only team choice I need to see from KK is Kuyt on the right to help protect against their top scorer...