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|EPL Preview: Norwich City v Liverpool - Reds aim to end poor run of league form at Carrow Road|
In their promotion to the premier league, Norwich has certainly impressed this season. With top flight football assured for another year, their primary goal has already been achieved. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s poor form, particularly at home, continues to frustrate those at Anfield and baffle the football world. With an FA Cup final against Chelsea still ahead, league performances are crucial and player’s positions are on the line. At Carrow Road, will the Canaries fly or will Liverpool paint the stadium red?
Sunday, April 29, Carrow Road
Liverpool vs Norwich City
Liverpool continues to be an enigma, playing bursts of quality football left unrewarded through a severe inability to capitalize on opportunities. There is no greater example of this than in their last premier league outing against West Bromwich Albion. The Reds battered the Baggies in almost every facet, but a Glen Johnson mistake opened the door for Peter Odemwingie to pounce and snatch West Brom a 1 – 0 victory, their first at Anfield in 45 years. It was almost laughable how easily Liverpool created chances, and even more ridiculous that the ball did not hit the back of the net. Just to round it all off, the Reds also managed to hit the post twice. The barrage on the woodwork, like the pattern of the match, has occurred with monotonous regularity this season.
The key hope for Liverpool continues to be Luis Suarez. No doubt Steven Gerrard is a barometer when fit, and his expected return will be a huge boost, but Suarez has been and remains the major source of creativity and is most obvious threat up front. It is seemingly inevitable that he will start finishing off his brilliant lead up work more regularly, and if and when that flows, Liverpool’s fortunes may swim with that tide. Whether it begins against Norwich this weekend remains to be seen.
Norwich has effectively and rightfully confirmed their place in the premier league, and can now enjoy their sunny afternoon stroll toward the season’s conclusion. Paul Lambert’s side has maximized their talents and shown great cohesion on a consistent basis. Having said this, the past two matches have been rather forgettable for the Canaries. They were dismantled by Manchester City 6 – 1, although few sides would have avoided a similar fate that day. Manchester City were as close to unstoppable as you will see in football, so much so that Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy was left largely as a spectator. Most recently, Blackburn Rovers defeated Norwich 2 – 0, with two goals in eight minutes either side of half time. Norwich has methodically gathered points, rarely slumping to a poor run of defeats or flying high with a string of wins. As such, you would expect them to bounce back with an improved performance against Liverpool.
The rise to prominence of Grant Holt has been fascinating and a massive part of Norwich’s comfortable place above the relegation battle. He is bullishly strong, but also capable of subtleties and finess in front of goal. His 13 goals puts him equal 8th on the premier league top scorers list this season, but what has been most impressive is who he has scored against. Manchester United (1st), Newcastle (4th), Chelsea (6th), Everton (7th) and Liverpool (8th) have all been holted by Grant’s ability to perform against the best. His role against Liverpool could determine the result.
The last time these two sides met, Liverpool were held to 1 – 1 draw by Norwich at Anfield. Taking the lead through Craig Bellamy just before the interval, Grant Holt came on as a substitute and immediately looked dangerous, scoring the equalizer from a powerful header. Liverpool controlled the match, with 29 goal attempts to 12, but could not find a winning strike past the brilliance of goalkeeper John Ruddy and Norwich’s sturdy defence. Although, Carroll should have given all three points to Liverpool when his last gasp header flashed wide. The Reds also hit the woodwork three times. Sound familiar?
In the mold of David and Goliath, only three points separates the giants of Liverpool and the humble, hard working Norwich. Fair to say that’s a larger reflection on Liverpool’s inconsistencies than Norwich’s success, but take nothing away from the Canaries, they have put in numerous professional shifts.
As the FA Cup final approaches, Liverpool has more riding on this match. With home form their biggest concern, a trip away may actually suit them. Norwich has been very reliable, but Liverpool should have too much class.
Prediction: Norwich 1–2 Liverpool