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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Norwich City, 10.22.11


Norwich City make their first trip to Anfield since the 2004-2005 season, currently situated ninth in the Premier League and winners of three of their last four. Each of the newly promoted sides have impressed this season, but the Canaries are the top of the heap thus far. Liverpool have strung together seven points from their last three and will hope to continue their string of positive performances in what could potentially be a very tricky match.

The dust has more or less settled from the week's events---maybe no solutions just yet, but the attention of most has turned towards a busy weekend and another home date for Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool. As it relates to the football, there's mostly positive sentiments lingering from last Saturday's draw with United, with most coming away feeling slightly disappointed that Liverpool didn't get more from the match.

As noted in the intro, Paul Lambert's Norwich has had a great start to the season, earning eleven points from their first eight matches. Wins against Bolton and Sunderland are their biggest scalps so far, but they've tested both Chelsea and Manchester United before faltering late. Their early exit in the League Cup at the hands of MK Dons has been the only disappointing performance of the young campaign, and that was more a result of an understrength squad than being overwhelmed.

There's a few injury worries for Lambert, as Elliott Ward, James Vaughan, and former Liverpool defender Daniel Ayala are all out long-term, while center-back Zak Whitbread, who suffered a hamstring injury, won't be back. Steve Morison will be, though, as will Grant Holt, Ritchie De Laet, Andrew Surman, Simon Lappin, and Chris Martin. Winger Anthony Pilkington has posed the greatest goalscoring threat for tomorrow's visitors, netting three on the season, two of which came in the 3-1 win over Swansea last weekend. Keeper John Ruddy's been a mainstay for Lambert, as have defenders Marc Tierney, Kyle Naughton, and Leon Barnett.

For Liverpool:

Who starts for Liverpool?

Kelly Carragher Agger Enrique
Spearing Adam
Kuyt Gerrard Downing

---In terms of regular first-teamers, there's nothing new to report. Yesterday I mentioned that Doni and Jack Robinson are out with a gnarled finger and slight sprain respectively, but no other news involving any fitness concerns. Lucas misses after incurring a one-match ban for getting five yellow cards.

---The returns of Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger midweek make the back line more clouded, but I think only the latter should come into the starting eleven. Martin Skrtel's been mostly decent, and wasn't terrible prior to his late lapse against United, but Agger should always be preferred. And while it was nice to see Johnson get time against Rangers, Kelly was outstanding last weekend and should retain his place along with Jamie Carragher and Jose Enrique.

---Lucas' absence gives Kenny Dalglish a chance (or might force him) to reassemble his midfield, as there's no like-for-like replacement for the Brazilian. He could go with Jay Spearing alongside Charlie Adam, though, pushing Steven Gerrard further forward with Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing wide. I'd actually like to see Jordan Henderson added to the mix somehow after impressing late against United, but I'm not sure how a three-man midfield with him, Gerrard, and Adam would come off.

---Ninety minutes for Andy Carroll midweek would typically be of concern for the weekend, but by all accounts he didn't exactly strain himself to contribute. Given Dalglish's distaste for those that were less than invested, that could serve to keep him out of tomorrow's eleven. If that's the case it'll again be Luis Suarez up top, hopefully the benefactor of a little better linking play than we saw early last weekend.

What's the most important factor for the Reds?

Four points from a brief stretch at home is critical, particularly when it's a match that Liverpool are almost unanimously expected to win. Over the past few seasons, one of Liverpool's biggest shortcomings has been following through in matches in which, for whatever reason, they're heavily favored. At Anfield against a newly-promoted club, Liverpool are always going to be favored. But they've shown vulnerability against sides that come out on the front foot, and after giving United a run for their money at Old Trafford a few weeks back, Norwich will likely arrive expecting to push Liverpool.

And you know, taking their chances for a change.

For everyone but me, this'll be another easy one to catch either on TV or online, with ESPN carrying coverage in the UK and Fox Soccer Channel airing the match in the US. I'll be unavoidably detained prior to kickoff, but Noel will be around on Twitter and over here for the matchday thread, with team sheets accompanying links to streams. As always, please let us know if you've got the inside track on a way to watch that we haven't published and we'll be sure to include it.

Hope you all have a nice Friday, and enjoy the match tomorrow.

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