Preview: Liverpool FC v Norwich City FC
After being held to a draw by a Manchester United side who came looking for that one point Liverpool had a brief detour from league action by taking on Rangers in a friendly defeat in Glasgow. Saturday sees a return to the games that matter and it’s another home game, this time against Norwich.
Liverpool fans who stood for the last time on a The Kop in 1994 can’t forget that Norwich came up to spoil the party. The terracing was about to be demolished to make way for what is now the Kop Grandstand and its seats and so Liverpool wanted to send it off with a celebration of all the glory it had witnessed, acknowledging its removal was to ensure it would never witness anything like the sadness of what took place on a terrace in Sheffield five years earlier.
The Kop sang for Bill Shankly, whose widow Nessie joined Bob Paisley’s wife Jessie in linking arms with Joe Fagan as they walked across the pitch to wave to the Kop, three names that had given Liverpool so much of that success in front of that mass of fans.
Kenny Dalglish was also there, by then the Blackburn manager having left Liverpool in 1991. He’d won three English league titles as Liverpool boss and would win his fourth as a manager of Blackburn the following season in front of the newly-built all-seater version of the Kop.
All but one of the managers that had been in charge of the the Reds from Shankly onwards was represented. That included the manager of the time, Roy Evans, but the man he’d replaced four months earlier, Graeme Souness, wasn’t there. Future manager Phil Thompson (he took the reigns from Gerard Houllier when the Frenchman was recovering from heart surgery) was also paraded.
Evans had inherited a side that was a confidence-zapped shell of the one Kenny Dalglish had taken to the league title just four years before but nobody expected Norwich to actually win this one. The players chosen by Evans seemed to be overawed by the occasion but maybe too much was expected of them. It was a side that included the promising trio of Jamie Redknapp (one of Dalglish’s final signings), Rob Jones and Robbie Fowler. It also featured a number of old heads – Steve Nicol, John Barnes, Ronnie Whelan and Ian Rush – and that mix of youth and experience could have been successful. It could have been – if it wasn’t supplemented by a selection of players that, frankly, were an embarrassment to Liverpool FC at best. Neil Ruddock, Nigel Clough and Julian Dicks were the kind of signings that helped ensure Liverpool would be stuck on 18 titles for a long time to come.
The game ended 1-0, Jeremy Goss scoring Norwich’s goal into the Kop net.
That was also Norwich’s last win over Liverpool, although they’ve only met four times since then. They met twice the following season, Liverpool winning 4-0 at home (goals from Scales, Fowler (2) and Rush) and 2-1 (Harkness and Rush) at Carrow Road. Norwich dropped out of the top flight at the end of that season, returning in 2004 for one season, and again got beaten twice by Liverpool. This was the Liverpool team that was on its way to that final in Istanbul and for the game at Anfield Norwich were on the wrong end of a 3-0 win courtesy of Milan Baros, Luis Garcia and Djibril Cissé. At Carrow Road Rafa Benítez’s men left with a 2-1 win that came thanks to goals from Luis Garcia and John Arne Riise, not to mention a little bit of luck.
Another lengthy gap from top-flight football means Norwich are something of an uknown quantity and certainly don’t see themselves as one of the newly-promoted sides that so often just last a season before another slip down to the Championship – they’ve done that before. This time they’re looking far more promising and go into the weekend in ninth place with just three points less than Liverpool. A 2-0 win for Norwich would see them go above Liverpool on goal difference – although Norwich are yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
Liverpool’s boss is of course Kenny Dalglish once more and he’s got to make at least one change from last week’s draw with Manchester United. Lucas picked up his fifth yellow of the season in that game and is suspended for the visit of the Canaries. This could give Jordan Henderson a chance to return to the starting line-up in midfield, but Kenny has a number of options from an otherwise full-strength outfield squad. Doni dislocated a finger in midweek so Martin Hansen may take his place on the bench.
Dalglish needs to make a decision on whether or not to recall Andy Carroll up front but Luis Suarez will be ready to put accusations (still it seems without evidence) behind him and is expected to start, as is Steven Gerrard who got Liverpool’s goal in that draw a week ago.
Kenny also has some options in defence. Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson came through the midweek friendly okay and could be recalled at the expense of Martin Skrtel and Martin Kelly respectively.
Norwich will be without their two former Liverpool centre-backs. Zak Whitbread returned to training this week after being out with a hamstring injury but isn’t yet ready for action, Daniel Ayala went out with a knee injury almost as soon as he’d signed from Liverpool. Also out with knee problems for Norwich are Elliott Ward and James Vaughan.
Many neutrals have said Norwich were unlucky not to at least get a point in their games against Chelsea (goalkeeper John Ruddy was sent off) and Manchester United (Anthony Pilkington still won’t know how he missed) and this might be the game Paul Lambert’s men see as one to prove themselves in.
Squad: Reina, Johnson, Kelly, Flanagan, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Coates, Enrique, Robinson, Aurélio, Coady, Spearing, Henderson, Adam, Kuyt, Rodríguez, Downing, Gerrard, Bellamy, Carroll, Suarez, Doni, Hansen
Disciplinary: Yellows: 16 Reds: 2
Top scorer: Suarez 4
Trivia: 1) The only defeat in 24 home games Liverpool have played against newly-promoted sides since 2003-04 was last season’s 2-1 defeat to Blackpool under Roy Hodgson. 2) Chances are hard to find against Liverpool so far this season – only 27 shots on target by opposition teams playing the Reds, the lowest in the top flight. 9 of them went in.
Squad: Ruddy, Naughton, Martin, Barnett, Tierney, Bennett, Hoolahan, Fox, Pilkington, Morison, Johnson, Rudd, De Laet, Jackson, Holt, Surman, C Martin, Drury, Wilbrahim, Ball, Crofts, Smith, Lappin, Francomb, Dawkin
Disciplinary: Yellows: 8 Reds: 2
Top scorer: Pilkington 3
Trivia: Norwich aren’t the only Premier League team yet to keep a clean sheet this season – Blackburn share the ‘honour’ with them.
Date: Saturday 22 October
Kick-off: 1730 BST
US: Fox Soccer Channel