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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Norwich City, 01.19.13

Liverpool host Norwich City at Anfield with hopes of replicating the reverse fixture's result earlier in the season, as well as to get themselves back on track in the midst of a difficult month.

Christopher Lee

From the outset we need to acknowledge that there's some question as to whether or not this one's actually going to happen tomorrow--like most of Texas or Seattle, even the smallest amounts of winter weather are apparently enough to turn Merseyside into a disaster area, and while Anfield can likely be prepared enough, the surrounding areas and travel might prove enough of a hazard for the match to be postponed.

I'd rather see them play than not, especially given how frustrating much of the stuff off the pitch has been over the past few days. Add into that uncertainty about when the match would be rescheduled and the slate Liverpool have on tap through the end of February, and even if we've seen an inconsistent product, playing tomorrow would be far more preferred to pushing the date back further.

They wouldn't be meeting Norwich at a bad time, either, as Chris Hughton's side have lost four of their last five in league, with a 0-0 draw against Newcastle last Saturday ending a four-match losing streak. It was always going to be a difficult stretch, with Chelsea and Manchester United sandwiched by trips to West Brom and West Ham, and while there weren't any points earned, they can at least be heartened by the fact that they lost by a combined four goals. They also managed to rebound well in the FA Cup, with a strong 3-0 away win over Petersborough preceding the Newcastle draw.

Hughton should have a mostly full-strength squad, with Grant Holt close to full fitness after a hamstring strain and Jonny Howson and Andrew Surman back as well. The team that drew with Newcastle was slightly different from the one Liverpool breezed past at the end of September; Mark Bunn's in for the injured John Ruddy in goal, and Sebastien Bassong took the place of Leon Barnett, who karate-chopped Luis Suarez last time the two teams faced each other. Anthony Pilkington missed out against Liverpool but was included against Newcastle, and Bradley Johnson, Robert Snodgrass started as well, with Holt limited to a role off the bench.

For Liverpool:

Wisdom Skrtel Agger Johnson
Lucas Gerrard
Borini Sturridge Suarez

Nothing new as far as fitness goes--Daniel Sturridge should be in line for his first start after needing some time to get up and running, and Fabio Borini's apparently ready to go, even if it's in a limited capacity. Still no word on Martin Kelly, but Jon Flanagan joined his ranks earlier this week on the longer-term list.

All things considered, Liverpool's defensive setup hasn't been terrible over the past few weeks, and while Andre Wisdom had a bobble or two against United, he should be in line for another start. Glen Johnson will likely again start on the left, with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel in the middle ahead of Pepe Reina. The options largely remain the same until the club bring in another fullback--shift to three central defenders, play Jack Robinson or Stewart Downing, or continue to leave Wisdom in the deep end until something changes or he's 24.

Nothing changes about preferences in midfield so long as Brendan Rodgers sticks with three--Lucas, Steven Gerrard, and Jordan Henderson remain the most balanced midfield over the past few months and should start. I suppose there's a chance Rodgers tries to replicate the formation we saw during the second half at Old Trafford, though, in which case Luis Suarez would occupy the more advanced midfield role and one of Lucas or Jordan Henderson drops out. Or it'll be Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard.

Both Sturridge and Borini will feature at some point, and while it might be a little soon for the Italian, it wouldn't be surprising if they were included with Luis Suarez. It also wouldn't be surprising if Stewart Downing started as well, especially if Suarez drops deeper. Obviously that's not best-case scenario, but it's in the running, as is another start for Raheem Sterling. With Sturridge nearly, though, it's only a matter of time before the Downing-Suarez-Sterling front line is a relic of the past.

Kickoff tomorrow is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST, with Fox Soccer Channel carrying the match live in the US. No listings for UK viewers given the start time, but there's likely something to pop up as match time edges closer. We'll have any legal options posted the matchday thread, which will run in the early hours tomorrow after the overnight thread. Team sheets will run an hour before kickoff, and we'll be around all weekend, so hopefully you'll be around to join us.

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