By Christopher Boulay
Think the season’s finished? Far from it. Liverpool may only have one trophy left to play for, but there certainly is a great deal of pride at stake. The Reds head to Carrow Road to take on Paul Lambert’s Norwich City, in what could turn out to be much more than a “six-pointer.”
Liverpool currently sits in eighth place in the table, one point behind Everton and 16 points below Newcastle – the current holders of fourth place. However, it is not necessarily the races above that are of a concern to the club at the moment. The race in midtable is actually far more pressing. While it doesn’t have any rewards – Liverpool is already going to play in Europa League – it certainly has consequences.
The last time the Reds finished in the bottom-half of the table is a date so long ago that it is not worth mentioning. It can happen again, and with four matches remaining, it is important for the squad not to lose its collective head. The players were brilliant building up in attack against West Brom. They just couldn’t put the ball in the net, and it cost them the game. It’s a common theme with this side, and missed opportunities are a sizable part of why the club currently isn’t competing for Champions League.
With this in mind, a loss against Norwich City would be disastrous. After Norwich, the club plays Fulham on Tuesday. After that? Two matches against Chelsea (one being the FA Cup final) before heading to Wales to finish up the Premier League campaign against Swansea City. This isn’t a particularly comforting run of fixtures, and all of these occur in a little more than one fortnight. At the moment, eight points separate Liverpool from Stoke City in 14th.
So, how does the club right the wrongs and finish well to end the year? Score. Score a lot.
Liverpool drew Norwich 1-1 in the Anfield fixture, as the Canaries equalized courtesy of England squad hopeful Grant Holt. In order to defeat a team as formidable as Norwich, it is vital for the club to continue its attacking ways. The defense has not been without issues this season, but it is sound compared to most. If Liverpool finds it is able to put together a building attack like so many other missed opportunities this year – and finds its scoring touch – the club can roll over Norwich. However, this is much easier said than done.
If Steven Gerrard misses his second consecutive match, the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing may be present in the central midfield. In addition, Maxi Rodriguez and Jordan Henderson could see action, as well.
Up front, it will be necessary for both Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to put together good performances. Both have looked strong lately, and for Liverpool to take a step forward, manager Kenny Dalglish will need these players to be huge, again.
For Norwich, Lambert’s boys will likely depend on the goal-scoring prowess of Holt. Norwich may not be an overwhelmingly talented side, they know how to poach goals. Despite this, the East Anglian side know how to give them up, as well. The club has a minus-13 goal differential, and has given up 60 goals so far this campaign.
Playing at Carrow won’t be easy. Norwich fans are both classy and loud, and going on current form, it could be a tough ask for Liverpool to take all three points. But to be blunt, the time has passed for excuses. It is time to show if the Reds have anything left in the tank. How the club performs in the next couple of fixtures may shed a good deal of light on how it will look during the FA Cup final. It also may show how much they care about finishing respectably in the Premier League table.
Norwich City v Liverpool
When: Sunday, April 28th 1230 EST/ 1730 GMT
Where: Carrow Road, Norwich
Premier League Table: Norwich 13th (43 points) Liverpool 8th (46 points)
Last Premier League Match: Blackburn 2-0 Norwich, Liverpool 0-1 West Brom
Projected Norwich City Starting 11:
DEF: R. Martin, Drury, Ward, R Bennett
MF: Surman, Hoolahan, E Bennett, Howson
FW: Vaughan, Holt
Subs from: Steer, Whitbread*, Naughton, Johnson, Pilkington, Fox, Morison, Wilbraham
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique
MF: Henderson, Spearing, Shelvey, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Aurelio, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Wilson, Coady, Wisdom, Gerrard*, Downing, Eccleston, Sterling, Kuyt, Bellamy
(*) = Late Fitness Test
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.