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Is It Closing Time Yet?: Norwich v. Liverpool Preview

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Tweety-bird_medium v. Liverbird_right_medium
KICKOFF: 12:30pm EST, 5:30pm BST
TV: FSC in The Colonies, ESPN UK in The Old Empire

I suppose it's at that point where you could just leave the bar early, but who does that? So you look up at the clock, can't believe it's only 12:30, and order another beer you know you don't need and will only harm you. That's where we are with Liverpool, just waiting for next Saturday to get here already.

Just like last week, they'll play a side tipped for relegation that allayed those fears long ago and is basically running out the clock until it's time to hit the beach. That didn't go so well last week, did it?

This could be used as audition time for the Final. While I won't say likely, because I never know what Kenny is going to do and I doubt he does either, you would think that tomorrow would see the strongest possible 11, with the fill-ins coming in on Tuesday at home to Fulham. And whoever performed really well on that night could possibly squeeze into the starting lineup at Wembley next week. That would be the easiest plan. But when has anything been easy?

With Steven Gerrard recovering from whatever spider-bite or club-foot or whatever other ailment he can contrive to come up with these days to miss out, he's a cert to start, probably with Jay Spearing. I'm sure Carroll and Suarez will be paired together, and only those two because Liverpool never field a front three including those two, no matter how much I might wish for it. We know the backline by heart, or at least we should and that will be the backline come Final Day, unless there's an injury or Dalglish really wants to see just how much Drogba can make Carragher cry in one match.

So basically, the two "wide" midfield spots are to be decided. The easy choice has always been Henderson shunted somewhere approximating the right and Downing on the left for about 25 minutes before he shifts to the right and Henderson wanders around like the town drunk in a Tennessee Williams play. Maxi could get a look as well, as I think Kuyt has fallen to last on the pecking order. Of course, there will be no consideration to giving Henderson a spot in the middle where he looked so good against WBA ahead of Gerrard and Spearing, with Maxi joining Suarez and Carroll. Because that would be maximizing your talent, and who does that?

The Canaries come into this one tied for 12th, at the back end of the middle chunk of the table that has nothing left to play for. Maybe because of that they come in off some horrific results, a 6-1 tub-thumping at home to City and a loss away to Blackburn (which not even Liverpool could manage a man down). Paul Lambert does not employ a boring side, as they've conceded 60 in the league so far and haven't kept a clean sheet since the first week of February. So they've had to do some scoring to get where they are. That won't keep Liverpool from firing everywhere but the open space between the posts, but they'll get chances if they can be bothered.

You saw the danger the last time these two met, with Liverpool dominating, actually getting the first goal through Bellamy, but then conceding to Grant Holt on the counter. He's still the main danger and will make you pay for any lapses. Pilkington and Morison aren't to be discounted either.

This has all the makings of a true snoozer, as both teams try and not blow out a knee before the season ends. Then again, occasionally in these matches where neither team has much to lose you can end up seeing both of them diving head first into the pool and going for it. If Norwich win, they'll draw level with Liverpool on points. Didn't I say just about the same thing last week?

Sinking into the bottom half does not appeal. So don't do that.