Premier League Preview: How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Norwich City
After Steven Gerrard looked to the heavens and shed tears at the end of Liverpool’s epic 3-2 win over fellow Premier League title challengers Manchester City, he gathered his teammates in a post-match huddle and stressed the importance of preparing for Norwich City next.
He has since called last Sunday’s victory the “longest 90 minutes of his life,” per ESPNFC, but even in his post-City interviews, the narrative was the same: “We need to stay calm and prepare for Norwich,” a thought echoed and emphasized by his manager, Brendan Rodgers.
Norwich have been one of Liverpool’s favorite opponents in the past campaign-and-a-half—Luis Suarez has hit no fewer than three successive hat-tricks against them—but the Canaries are in the midst of a relegation battle, and a visit to Carrow Road would no doubt present a different kind of challenge to the Reds.
With Jordan Henderson suspended after his red card last week and Daniel Sturridge out with a hamstring injury, here’s our Liverpool lineup for Sunday’s clash against Norwich, in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Enjoy and let us know your picks in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Simon Mignolet had his nervy moments against Manchester City last weekend, but it was his excellent reactionary save from Fernandinho in the dying minutes of the first half that gave the Reds a 2-0 win at half-time.
Norwich’s attacking setup doesn’t compare to City’s all-star lineup, but the Canaries will be desperate to provide the goals that keep them in the top flight. Mignolet will need to be ready when called upon.
Right-Back: Glen Johnson
Since Glen Johnson’s return from injury, the sight of the No. 2 galloping down the flanks to support his team in attack has become a familiar one to Liverpool fans once again.
Norwich have conceded the fourth-highest number of goals in the league this season. Johnson will no doubt be granted the license to run down the Liverpool right on Sunday.
Left-Back: Jon Flanagan
While at first sight Jon Flanagan should’ve been glad that Manuel Pellegrini sent on James Milner to replace the quick and direct Jesus Navas last week, in reality it was Milner’s introduction that turned the game in Manchester City’s favor.
Flanagan will be wary of his positional naivety this weekend as he comes up against the pinpoint delivery of Robert Snodgrass.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
While Martin Skrtel didn’t enjoy a faultless and totally dominant match last Sunday, he showed up at the right time to head Liverpool into an important 2-0 lead, in the process becoming the highest-scoring defender in the Premier League this season with seven goals.
It’s safe to say that none of Norwich’s strike options offer remotely the same kind of threat as City’s, but Skrtel and Co. will need to make sure that they don’t concede soft goals and put their team under unnecessary pressure.
Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho
Daniel Agger’s injury, which ruled him out of the 2-1 win at West Ham United, came at an unfortunate time, but it’s full credit to Mamadou Sakho for taking advantage and forcing his way back into Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI.
For a hot-blooded, and at-times reckless, tackler, Sakho is strangely composed on the ball and technically proficient in his passing. He’ll need that in what will surely be a hostile Carrow Road atmosphere.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
Lost amid his tears and post-match reactions was the fact that Steven Gerrard avoided going into Mark Clattenburg’s book against one of the toughest midfields in the Premier League, ensuring that he would safely pass the yellow-card cutoff and be eligible for the crucial run-in.
As Liverpool look to sustain their 10-match winning run, Gerrard’s composure and leadership will be more vital than ever—as will his set-piece prowess.
Central Midfielder: Joe Allen
As Jordan Henderson’s suspension and Daniel Sturridge’s injury deprive Rodgers of two of his most reliable performers, so we switch the 4-3-3 (or a 4-4-2 diamond of late) back into a 4-2-3-1, the formation Liverpool used over December, when both Gerrard and Sturridge were out.
Into the central midfield comes Joe Allen, who came on to good effect as Rodgers changed his tactical approach against City and has generally exhibited good form in the past couple of months.
Right Winger: Raheem Sterling
On the right wing, Raheem Sterling practically picks himself, as a mature performance from the young winger against City was capped by breathtaking composure in the buildup to Liverpool’s first goal last Sunday, after just over five minutes into the match.
Sterling’s industry, pace and tactical intelligence have made him an almost indispensable part of Rodgers’ squad these days, and he will be looking to cause the Norwich defence plenty of problems this week.
Left Winger: Victor Moses
That Victor Moses gets a start in our lineup this Sunday—a first in many months—is perhaps a damning reflection of how much investment the Reds squad still needs before they have a squad capable of competing both in the Premier League and in the Champions League.
All the same, Moses came off the bench against City to complete an in-game switch to 4-3-3, and he looks a more likely option than the likes of Iago Aspas to start against Norwich, in what might even turn out to be his last-ever appearance for Liverpool.
Central Attacking Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho started the season in somewhat underwhelming fashion, considering how he burst onto the scene after arriving at Anfield last January, but his transformation into an all-rounded central midfielder in the past few months has been impressive and noteworthy.
He gets a start here in his favored No. 10 position as just reward for his influential performance against City, where he scored a classy winner that might turn out to be season-defining for the Reds.
Striker: Luis Suarez
In the reverse fixture at Anfield this season, Luis Suarez scored four goals as Liverpool ran out 5-1 winners, in the process becoming the first player in Premier League history to score three hat-tricks against the same club.
He’s also scored 11 goals in five matches against Norwich. The Canaries defence will have their work cut out trying to stop him from improving that record—or, indeed, smashing the all-time Premier League single-season scoring record outright.