Norwich make the trip to Anfield next in a midweek evening match – a type of fixture that is traditionally associated with this time of the season. As Christmas and the new year approach each side will be playing 7 Premier League games over a four week period, and for many clubs it is when the fortunes of title contenders and relegation candidates are most heavily influenced.
That is not to say that Liverpool are certain title contenders and Norwich relegation candidates, but they are at either end of that spectrum and the results that each side can produce during December and early January will reveal a lot about the credentials of both teams.
Liverpool enter this festive period on the back of a shock 3 – 1 defeat to Hull City at the KC Stadium. Although the reds have been impressive for the most part this season, their form has been patchy and the result from the weekend highlighted how anybody can truly beat anybody in this league. The big news of late is the injury to Daniel Sturridge that will see him take to the side-lines until the new year, and some may be unsettled by the fact that Liverpool so comfortably lost their first game without him. Indeed, without Sturridge some of the bite in Liverpool’s attack has been weakened, but there are still other big names that can make an impact. Moreover it was defensive fragility that led to Liverpool’s defeat against Hull, not the absence of Sturridge. If Liverpool can rediscover the form that had them second in the Premier League until now, then they should expect to win this game.
In contrast to Liverpool, Norwich are on a high after victory on Saturday. Certainly the win against Crystal Palace was needed, especially since the Canaries had only one win in six beforehand. They currently sit 14th in the league 4 points from safety, and the upcoming congested fixture list is an opportunity to move upwards and away from the bottom three. Liverpool have demonstrated that they are beatable at home, and Norwich will be looking to provide an upset just as Southampton have done once already this season.
- Liverpool have won 7 out of their last 8 Premier League matches against Norwich, and in their last 3 matches Suarez has scored an incredible 7 goals, four of which came from outside of the goalkeeper’s area.
- Norwich have won only 3 of their 25 league away games under Hughton (W3 D7 L15), and have failed to win successive away games since 2012.
- Norwich (14) are one of only two teams (Fulham) to have conceded more goals than Liverpool (11).
A rather simple pick for Liverpool’s key player is Luis Suarez. He is the club’s joint top goals scorer with 9 goals, tied with the absent Daniel Sturridge. His ability to find create his own opportunities is what is particularly impressive, evidenced by his 58 dribble attempts, more than anyone else in the team, and his ability to take a shot every 19 minutes on average, the most frequent out of anyone in the team. In total he has managed 40 shots with an accuracy of 55%, and he is Liverpool’s most direct threat against the opposition.
After his return from injury against Crystal Palace and a dominant display in that game, I’m selecting Sebastian Bassong as my key player for Norwich. Indeed he has been key to Norwich for a couple of seasons now. This year he has a total of 18 successful headed clearances from 18 attempted. On clearances in general he has a total of 51 from 51 attempted, giving him a 100% success rate in both statistics. As well as having an ability to alleviate pressure on defence, he is also a calming figure, and only Tetty (90%) has a higher passing accuracy than Bassong (86%). Certainly, if Norwich are to nullify the threat of Luis Suarez and co, then they will need Bassong to be on his best form.
Sturridge will certainly be missed, and is not expected to return until the end of January, and injuries to Enrique, Toure and Coates will leave holes in Liverpool’s defence.
Norwich sit right at the top of the Premier League injury table, and unfortunately many of their absentees will be injured for some time yet. Snodgrass, Pilkington and Van Wolfswinkel are the three most noticeable injuries in the ranks, with Tettey, Bunn and Bennett also unavailable.
The stats and trends suggest that Norwich won’t achieve back-to-back wins, and – without commiting the gambler’s fallacy – nor does logic. Both teams have big players missing, but Liverpool’s strength in depth and higher level of quality should see them triumph.