19 September 2015

Liverpool v Norwich 09.20.15

11am ET, live in the US on USA Network

Last four head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 04.20.14
5-1 Liverpool (h) 12.04.13
5-0 Liverpool (h) 01.19.13
5-2 Liverpool (a) 09.29.12

Last matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Bordeaux (a); 1-3 United (a); 0-3 West Ham (h)
Norwich: 3-1 Bournemouth (h); 0-3 Southampton (a); 2-1 Rotherham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Benteke 2; Coutinho 1
Norwich: Martin, Redmond 2; Hoolahan, Jarvis, Jerome, Whitaker 1

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Skrtel Sakho Moreno
Milner Can
Lallana Firmino Coutinho

This match marks a new beginning, the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end.

Liverpool's next four matches are at home. Liverpool's next four matches are against Norwich, Carlisle, Aston Villa, and FC Sion. We're all aware that Liverpool have the potential to lose any match against any opponent on any day, and usually in the most comical fashion possible, but those are four winnable matches, especially considering what Liverpool's fixture list has looked like so far.

Jordan Henderson will be out for a couple of months after breaking a metatarsal in training yesterday – and I doubt I need emphasize how much of a loss that'll be – but Daniel Sturridge is back in training and Joe Allen is almost as close to returning. Given all that's come before, there's no way Sturridge will start his first match back, but he'll be on the bench, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't make an appearance.

But even more important than returning players is Liverpool learning their lessons from recent disappointments, especially the 0-3 loss to West Ham. Sakho and Moreno have to start after their performances against Bordeaux. As per usual, the less said about Lovren, the better. Joe Gomez – the only outfield player to start in all six of Liverpool's matches – has played above expectations, but that loss to West Ham demonstrated his weaknesses when Liverpool dominate possession; Moreno is much more capable of adding width in the opposition half, something Liverpool will almost certainly need tomorrow.

And, to the surprise of no one, Liverpool need more bodies in attack, more support for their striker(s). 4-2-3-1 has rarely worked under Rodgers, but you'd have to think that a line of Lallana-Firmino-Coutinho will provide Benteke with more help than we've seen from the 4-3-3, with the adding bonus of getting Firmino into a central role.

Maybe Liverpool stick with the 3-4-2-1 we saw at Bordeaux, with Benteke, Milner, Skrtel, and Clyne replacing Origi, Rossiter, Toure, and Ibe. Maybe it becomes a 3-5-2. Maybe Liverpool persist with the 4-3-3, dropping Coutinho in midfield with Lallana and Firmino on the "flanks." Maybe Liverpool persist with the same 4-3-3 seen at United, seen for the majority of matches in this short season. But I truly think that 4-2-3-1 provides Liverpool with its best chance for success against tomorrow's opposition. It can't get worse, can it?

After five matches, Norwich are level on points with Liverpool: two wins, one draw, and two losses. But where Liverpool have scored just three goals, Norwich have eight, including 3-1 wins over both Bournemouth (a team that Liverpool scored a single offside goal against) and Sunderland. However, they've yet to keep a clean sheet this season, conceding once in four games (including the League Cup), and three goals in two others. Of course, it'd be eminently fitting if that first clean sheet came at Anfield.

Norwich will play 4-2-3-1, often shifting into a 4-4-1-1 tomorrow, an XI of Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Brady; Tettey, Howson; Redmond, Hoolahan, Jarvis; Jerome. Nathan Redmond, still only 21, is Norwich's most dangerous player, with two goals and an assist so far this season, both providing width and cutting in down the right, a constant danger on the counter-attack. Hoolahan's also flourished in a free role behind the main striker, back in favor since Alex Neil became manager in January.

As I'm sure you'll remember, Norwich have been Liverpool's favorite opponent over the last few seasons, scoring at least three goals in each of the last five meetings. As I'm sure you'll remember, that had a lot to do with Luis Suarez; it just won't feel right facing the Canaries without the Uruguayan in the lineup.

It's a scary, brave new world. And Liverpool assuredly have to be brave tomorrow.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Watched Suarez v. Juventus this week and it was painful. I miss watching him play so much. He wasn't spectacular or anything, he just tries anything he might have a 5% chance of getting away with and cares so much.

Anyway, thanks for the preview as always. Keep up the good work.