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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Norwich City, 04.28.12

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Liverpool visit Carrow Road for the first time in seven years, hoping to bounce back from yet another disappointing loss in which they looked the better side but couldn't find a breakthrough. Norwich sit just three points behind Liverpool in the table despite losing their last two, and will likely head into tomorrow with confidence given their opposition's wobbly league form and the draw they managed at Anfield back in October.

With the FA Cup Final date quickly approaching, it'd be nice if we saw Liverpool give themselves a bit of a boost, especially with Chelsea riding high after their semi-final victory over Barcelona midweek. But as was pointed out last week, Liverpool have seemed perfectly happy to drudge along in league and show up when it's required in cup competition, so who knows what to hope for ahead of tomorrow's trip east.

And while next weekend's Wembley visit poses something resembling salvation for many, I wouldn't mind if Liverpool invested in saving as many points as possible in league as well. The "season saving" should be more about the club and its supporters at this point---in terms of personnel, I don't know that there should be any "saving" done regardless of whether or not they add to the trophy cabinet next Saturday night. So yes, another final is a nice moment in a season that's given us little to celebrate, but it's also a stark reminder of just how dismal the rest of the year, and the run-in, have been.

Norwich would be happy to heap on the misery, particularly after the way they've played after their win over a fading Spurs side at White Hart Lane a few weeks ago. Manchester City hit them for six just five days later, and last weekend they conceded on each side of the halftime break at Blackburn en route to a 2-0 defeat. There's no fears of relegation, as they're a comfortable ten points ahead of Bolton with only three to play.

Paul Lambert will have a few injury worries, though, including Zak Whitbread, Daniel Ayala, and Marc Tierney, all defenders who will miss out for sure. The aforementioned trio were absent against Blackburn as well, with Elliott Ward, Ryan Bennett, Adam Drury, and Russell Martin across the back and John Ruddy in goal. Wes Hoolahan, Jonathan Howson, Andrew Surman, and Elliott Bennett made up the midfield, with James Vaughan and Grant Holt up front.

Who starts for Liverpool?

Reina
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Kuyt Gerrard Henderson Downing
Suarez Carroll

---No new injuries to report, as Steven Gerrard returned to full training earlier in the week after missing out against West Brom. That leaves only Lucas and Charlie Adam, who was recently confirmed as absent for the rest of the campaign, in the stands.

---The first-choice back line was reunited last weekend to mostly positive returns, save for the error from Glen Johnson that led to Peter Odemwingie's winner. That's no reason to keep him out, and there's no justifiable excuses for any of the rest to miss out either. Most notable news at the back is the emerging rumor that Sebastian Coates might be sent on loan to start next season, which makes me want to punch all the things.

---Steven Gerrard's more likely to play tomorrow than he is midweek, so it'd make sense to have him start either centrally or on the right. As usual, if it's him or Henderson destined to play wide there's no contest, but I actually wouldn't mind seeing the two partnered centrally. That leaves room for Dirk Kuyt on the right flank and places Henderson in a position to actually, you know, do well. And after sitting until late against West Brom, I'd imagine Stewart Downing comes back into the squad in place of Maxi, although Craig Bellamy could be in the mix as well.

---Another start for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez is on the cards, with the latter turning in a mostly terrific display last weekend and the former working very hard to somewhat little effect. They again showed flashes of a partnership, mostly in fits and starts, and will likely continue to do so for the rest of the season. Bellamy and Kuyt could slip in, however, and if that's the case it'll likely be Carroll who's sacrificed.

What's the most important factor for the Reds?

If they could replicate their performance from last weekend and sprinkle in a bit more finishing, that'd be fantastic. As Noel pointed out yesterday, the display against West Brom was more aesthetically pleasing but frustrating for a host of other reasons, but I guess that's what we're left with at this point in the season. Regardless of who features, the mantra stays the same---be committed, work hard, and actually play football, whether or not something's on the line.

Bit of a strange kickoff time tomorrow, with proceedings set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM EST. ESPNUK will have the match live for British viewers, and those stateside can catch the match on Fox Soccer Channel. We'll also provide links for folks that will be trying to watch online. If you've got any updated links or something's not working out, please let me know so I can have functioning links only. As usual, you can expect team sheets along with streams in the matchday thread, and we'll be hanging out here and over on Twitter.

Hope you all have a nice end to the week, and we'll see you back here tomorrow.