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    Norwich City vs Liverpool Match Preview

    Liverpool will be hoping to get their Champions League hopes back on track on Saturday when they travel to a Norwich side that are also in need of a change in fortune having suffered three successive defeats. The Reds may be forced into resting players, with Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final against Stoke City on the horizon, and once again will be without the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel through injury.

    Having dropped eight points in the past three matches, Liverpool find themselves in ninth position, eight points behind fourth-place Tottenham with a vastly inferior goal difference. Their best form under Jurgen Klopp has been largely reserved for the cup competitions, winning six from nine unbeaten matches despite resting players to ease the burden of a busy fixture schedule. It is their inconsistency in the league, however, that is threatening to deny the club Champions League qualification for a sixth time in seven seasons and another defeat could leave them in 12th position by the end of the weekend.

    After wins over Leicester City and Sunderland, Liverpool finally looked to be putting a run of form together to challenge for the top four, but defeats to West Ham and Manchester United and a draw against Arsenal have once again called into question their Champions League credentials. Their form has not been helped by injuries to Coutinho, Sturridge and Skrtel, as well to the likes of Divock Origi, Jordan Rossiter and Dejan Lovren, who remain on the sidelines. The one good piece of injury news to come out of Anfield this week was the return to action after 20 months out of Jon Flanagan, who played the last 39 minutes against Exeter City on Wednesday.

    If Liverpool are to return from Carrow Road with all three points, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes as against Manchester United last weekend when they outperformed their fierce rivals but ultimately lost the match. The Reds will need to show a greater ruthless streak in the final third of the pitch having wasted a number of golden chances on Sunday, albeit against the inspirational goalkeeping of David De Gea. In addition, they must exorcise the demons that have haunted the club all season, and which resurfaced 12 minutes from time against United, when their susceptibility at defending crosses led to Wayne Rooney's winner.

    Norwich have struggled for consistency themselves in recent weeks, losing their last three matches against Manchester City, Stoke and Bournemouth after winning three of their previous four games. Their bad run has allowed the gap between themselves and the bottom three to be reduced from six points to two with a tough run of fixtures ahead, starting with the visit of Liverpool. The Canaries do tend to fare well against the bigger sides, however, having drawn 1-1 at Anfield earlier in the season, as well as winning 2-1 at Old Trafford and holding Arsenal and Everton to draws at Carrow Road.

    The East Anglian club will be boosted by the signing of 29-year-old forward Steven Naismith, who arrives on a £8.5 million deal from Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton. With only four teams scoring fewer goals than Norwich this season, his finishing ability and top league experience should prove invaluable in the club's quest for Premier League survival. The signing of defenders Ivo Pinto and Timm Klose, as well as midfielders Ben Godfrey and Matt Jarvis, should help to bolster the Norwich squad as they prepare for a difficult run of games. Another pleasing aspect for Norwich manager Alex Neil will be the fact that he has a fully-fit squad to choose from, although Gary O'Neil is suspended and Andre Wisdom ineligible.

    Norwich Key Players

    Nobody will be more motivated to perform on Saturday than the former Everton midfielder Steven Naismith, who will be making his Canaries debut. After starting on just four occasions in the Premier League so far this season, the Scot will be desperate to get off to a good start in a Norwich shirt and there is no opposition he would rather score against than Everton's local rivals Liverpool. Naismith's pace, power and strength should prove an invaluable asset to his new side and his finishing ability is also one of his greatest strengths, having netted double figures for club and country in both the previous two campaigns.

    Sebastien Bassong will need to be at his commanding best if Norwich are to leave Carrow Road on Saturday with all three points. The Cameroonian defender has been an ever-present for the Canaries this season and has enjoyed his most consistent season since signing from Tottenham in 2012. Bassong's importance to the Norwich team was revealed earlier in the season, when he topped the Premier League lists for clearances, headed clearances and aerial duels. At his best, he can be a powerful, imposing and no-nonsense central defender, as he demonstrated earlier in the campaign when his side defended resolutely to leave Anfield with a creditable 1-1 draw.

    Liverpool Key Players

    Christian Benteke has plenty to prove in a Liverpool shirt having scored seven goals in 26 appearances since signing from Aston Villa in the summer for £32.5 million. The Belgian may get his chance on Saturday, if manager Klopp chooses to rest Roberto Firmino for Tuesday night's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Stoke. He boasts an excellent record against Norwich from his Aston Villa days, having netted four times in five matches, and will be eager to stake a claim for a permanent starting place with Daniel Sturridge 10 days away from a return. Even if Benteke is introduced as a substitute, he is capable of making an impact, as he proved in setting-up Joe Allen's equaliser against Arsenal.

    Emre Can has arguably been Liverpool's most consistent performer in a season where he began playing in a three-man defence under Brendan Rodgers before being converted as a midfielder by Klopp. The German is almost the complete footballer, possessing the pace, power and strength that makes him suited to Klopp's gegenpressing style as well as having the defensive instincts of sensing danger and snuffing it out. It has been the midfielder's attacking strengths that have caught the eye in recent games, especially against Arsenal and Manchester United, where he displayed an excellent passing range and a willingness to shoot from long range. The only part his game that is lacking is his goalscoring record, having scored once in 32 matches this season.

    Head To Head

    Liverpool's form against Norwich is impressive, having won nine and drawn two of their last 11 matches over a 21-year period. The Reds have scored 22 goals in the last six meetings between the two sides and 40 in the 15 matches they have played since the start of the Premier League in 1992. Norwich fans, however, will remember more fondly the 1-1 draw at Anfield in October 2011, where Wes Hoolahan, John Ruddy, Elliott Bennett and Russell Martin remain surviving members from that particular day. The sides drew 1-1 at Anfield in October 2015, with Martin cancelling out Danny Ings' earlier strike to give his side a share of the spoils.

    Norwich Team News

    Steven Naismith is set to make his Norwich City debut on Saturday after completing a £8.5 million transfer from Everton on Tuesday, while defenders Ivo Pinto and Timm Klose could also feature having been signed from Dinamo Zagreb and Wolfsburg respectively. Alex Neil has a fully-fit squad at his disposal, although he will have to do without the services of Andre Wisdom, who is ineligible to face his parent club. Norwich will also be without the suspended Gary O'Neil after the midfielder was sent-off in the recent defeat against Stoke City for a two-footed tackle on Ibrahim Afellay.

    Liverpool Team News

    Adam Lallana is an injury doubt for Liverpool having sustained a muscle problem but Jon Flanagan could be included in the matchday squad after making his first appearance in the first-team for 20 months as substitute in midweek. Daniel Sturridge is around 10 days away from returning from a hamstring injury and he joins Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Jordan Rossiter (all hamstring), Divock Origi, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings (all knee) on the sidelines. 

    Score Prediction

    Norwich City 1-1 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Norwich City vs Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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