TIME: Saturday, 12:30 ET, 5:30 BST
TV: FSC for the Yanks, ESPN UK for the Brits
Tomorrow sees the Reds begin a stretch of three matches in the league that they pretty much have to sweep. Norwich at home, WBA away, Swansea at home. Then an international break, and only the maze of Chelsea and City after that. Clearly, you want to head into that dungeon of doom with as many points in the bag as you can.
Not that tomorrow's encounter with The Canaries is as simple as it might have first looked when it hopped on your computer screen. Norwich are in ninth, just three points behind Liverpool. Their only losses in the league have come away to Chelsea and United -- two games they could have easily gotten something from and may have deserved to -- and the blip of a home loss to West Brom. They also don't come with a Carling Cup distraction (as Liverpool might, Kenny seems to be taking that competition quite seriously), so the Pool will get Norwich's best shot. Considering the fight they've put up at the Bridge and Theater of Prawns, it's quite the fight indeed.
The main danger man this year is from the left wing, Anthony Pilkington. He's netted three times for Norwich this year, where no one else has managed more than a solitary goal. However, it's not such a name that will keep Dalglish from tossing out Glen Johnson for the first time in a while, for reasons we'll get to later. Norwich have some injury concerns at the back. Two former Liverpool players (and one former Yank hopeful) Zak Whitbread and Danny Ayala apparently caught whatever Agger has, and are out. This has made Norwich decidedly ropey at the back, as they've conceded in every game they've played.
Which is all the more reason Liverpool should set out with teeth bared and snarl echoing...or something. The main concern could have been Lucas serving a suspension -- probably not the last time this will happen. And Norwich won't come and park the bus, they'll try and play, so having his human land mine act would have been helpful. But still, this is the type of team you're supposed to batter at home if you think you're a Top 4 team. Most likely, Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam will pair together in the center, with Gerrard doing the minding. If you wanted to get cheeky, Jay Spearing could back them both up, but he's not really a holding midfielder either. Against Norwich, you shouldn't need one.
After his cameo against United, it's only a question of if Jordan Henderson starts on the right of Adam and Gerrard, or amongst them. If it's the latter, you'd expect Downing and Kuyt to man the flanks with Suarez by himself. But the smart money says Dalglish goes with two strikers and Andy Carroll will start alongside Suarez in a 4-2-2-2.
At the back, both Agger and Johnson got run-outs in the field trip to Glasgow, and could get back into the starting lineup. Because Liverpool probably want to attack ferociously in this one, expect both of them to do so. Having Johnson mirror Enrique's charges to the flag on the right could really do wonders, and Henderson's reluctance to stay wide on that side won't hurt as much. Obviously, we know what Agger's passing out of the back does for the side.
Can't shake the feeling these three points will be harder to earn than it should be. But with Spurs coming off a Thursday Europa league and away from home, the importance of at least not losing ground is paramount. Oh, and if City beat their neighbors the following day, Liverpool would only be three behind "the biggest club in the world". Let's do that then.