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Liverpool are back on the road in search of their first league win under Brendan Rodgers, facing off against new manager Chris Hughton and a Norwich City side that, like Liverpool, are winless through their first five matches.
All the positive sentiment in the world doesn't create league points for Liverpool, so while we're all left feeling good after the performance against United and the encouraging display in the win over West Brom, Brendan Rodgers' squad are still left with only two points. Ideally the points and the progress would go hand-in-hand, which obviously hasn't happened quite yet, but there's at least the feeling that the results will come so long as the performances manage to stay at a high(ish) level.
With two wins in the first three of a busy stretch--with a draw at Sunderland coming just before the schedule really got crowded--you'd have to say that Liverpool have been relatively successful; the Stadium of Light isn't a terrible place to grab a point, an away win in Europe with the kids fighting back was largely impressive, the loss at Anfield to United, while painful, saw the club once again outplay their opposition only to be undone by poor decisions (this time not their own), and Wednesday's 2-1 victory at the Hawthorns had another strong showing from a number of individuals and the side as a whole.
So there are plenty of reasons for positives, and hopefully those will carry over into tomorrow and see Liverpool come away with the type of result they feel they deserve. Norwich won't be any pushovers, butlike Liverpool, they're winless, with two of their league points have coming at Carrow Road, with the other in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. In four matches at home in all competitions the Canaries are unbeaten, most recently with a 1-0 win over Doncaster on Wednesday to advance to the fourth round of the League Cup.
Goals have been an issue thus far, and there haven't been as many encouraging signs as they had to start last season under Paul Lambert. Hughton will be possibly be without Anthony Pilkington and Sebastien Bassong tomorrow, and Harry Kane left during the win over Doncaster with a foot injury. Bassong had played in four of the club's first five matches and Pilkington started three part in three; Kane had only made one substitute appearance in Premier League action, with Grant Holt the preferred option thus far up front. Each of John Ruddy, Bradley Johnson, Jonathan Howson, Robert Snodgrass, and Russell Martin have started all five matches thus far, and Javier Garrido and Leon Burnett have started four. Steve Morison might feature as well, with only one start but four substitute appearances to this point.
Johnson Skrtel Coates Enrique
Sterling Suarez Suso
There's a few absences here and there--Jonjo Shelvey's suspended, Lucas and Martin Kelly are out longer-term, and both Fabio Borini and Daniel Agger are questionable. I can't stress caution enough with all that will be missing through injury; we know that Borini's been fairly reliable and injury-free throughout his young career, but for the other three there's a significant injury history, and there's no immediate rush to have any them available.
That means I don't really want to see Agger involved tomorrow, particularly with Sebastian Coates having a number of strong showings lately. Both he and Carragher played at West Brom and either could start, but the young Uruguayan is the more capable of the two and seems to be preferred by Brendan Rodgers. The biggest question yet again is what happens in the fullback positions despite knowing that Glen Johnson will start. Either he's right and Jose Enrique, Jack Robinson, or Stewart Downing starts on the left, or Andre Wisdom--who's been very good in his last two starts against Young Boys and West Brom--gets the nod on the right and Johnson stays on the left.
Similar to the back line, we know two of the names for sure that'll start in the midfield, with Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen getting a rest midweek. Someone who played in the West Midlands will have to make a quick turnaround, and Rodgers will have to choose from Jordan Henderson, Nuri Şahin, or Suso, who came on and created the winner almost instantly. As I mentioned earlier, I think it's Şahin all the way with Henderson available as a substitute, with nobody else besides the three names mentioned really in contention.
Up top there's the questions about Borini to deal with, and while it wouldn't be surprising to see him back in the eleven, I'm guessing for a front three of Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, and Suso. The inclusion of the Spaniard might be a stretch, but unless Oussama Assaidi's available after a full ninety midweek, there aren't too many other realistic choices. Stewart Downing's a possibility but is both unfavored and ineffective, and Dani Pacheco is only now seeming to work his way back into the picture.
There aren't really any doubts about Liverpool's ability to win the type of match they'll be faced with tomorrow, especially with their hosts having their own troubles in the early going. There's been enough that the club have done well so far to indicate that a win isn't too far off, and if they can piece together the different components that have left us wanting more, we'll hopefully see them up and running for the season.
Tomorrow might be a little more difficult to watch for folks, however, with Fox Soccer Plus the only option stateside and no listing in England. Seems like most found a way for the League Cup match, and we appreciate you respecting the limitations we have as far as listing different types of options goes. Whatever pops up, we'll include in the matchday thread, which will have team sheets as well starting around an hour before kickoff, which is set for 3:00PM BST/10:00AM EST.
Hope you all have a nice Friday, and hopefully we'll be able to start our Saturday with Liverpool's first Premier League win.