Liverpool visit bottom-of-the-table Norwich on Saturday evening, but do Canaries fans believe there is any chance of a huge upset?
The Reds have enjoyed their winter break and it’s time for an assault on the treble in the remaining three months of the season.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men return to Premier League action this weekend, as top faces bottom at Carrow Road.
A win would leave Liverpool 25 points ahead of Man City, with Pep Guardiola’s champions not in action due to postponement and a winter break of their own.
Ahead of the match, we spoke to Carrow Road regular and writer Daniel Emery (@DanielEmeryRS) to get his thoughts on Norwich, Liverpool and Saturday’s clash.
Norwich are bottom of the Premier League – how would you assess the season so far?
Excuse me for stating the obvious, but it’s gone poorly.
The club decided not to risk financial insecurity in the future by not investing in the squad last summer and that has, unfortunately, cost us.
Put simply, we do not have the quality throughout the squad to stay in the Premier League.
The defence needed strengthening, after conceding the most goals of any title-winning side in Championship history, and it didn’t happen.
It must also be said that we suffered a spate of injuries in the first few months of the season, though, and that made it hard for Norwich to settle into their rhythm at this level.
Do you still think the Canaries can beat the drop?
We don’t have the quality to stay up. It would take a minor miracle for us to avoid the drop in the next 13 games.
I think you can see from our January signings, aside from Ondrej Duda on loan, that the club are expecting relegation as well.
We signed two young players and sent them back on loan, and a backup utility man from the Bundesliga for less than £1 million.
Which players have stood out most this season?
If I had to pick three, I would go with Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and Sam Byram.
Pukki and Cantwell for the obvious reasons in that they score and create goals, but Byram was signed as a backup right-back and has been one of our best players this season.
Despite being a right-back by trade, he has been excellent at left-back since taking over from Jamal Lewis.
He makes tackles, interceptions, clearances and wins his headers—what more could you want?
Any who have struggled?
As you can imagine, quite a few. Again, I’ll pick three: Marco Stiepermann, Mo Leitner and Onel Hernandez.
All three were brilliant in our promotion-winning season and key members of the squad, but have failed to deliver in the Premier League.
Stiepermann, in particular, has been poor, with no goals and assists in an attacking midfield position all season.
At any level that is an abysmal return, and the reason behind the club signing Duda in January.
A lack of contribution behind the striker has been a huge issue for Norwich throughout the campaign, due to Stiepermann’s failure to make the step up.
What do you think has been key to Liverpool’s success?
They are not as easy on the eye as Man City have been, but they know how to win games—it’s as simple as that.
Every player in the team knows their role and executes it perfectly each week, which is why it’s so hard to stop them.
When you have two full-backs as energetic as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, it can be easy to pin teams in and fire crosses in until you get the goal, especially when you have Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino getting on the end of them.
Who do you fear most for the Reds on Saturday?
Given he scored your first goal of the season, I’d have to say Grant Hanley!
No, in all seriousness, I would have to say Mane.
He’s one of my personal favourite players in the league and his movement could be a killer for our back four.
If he is able to find the space, make runs and get shots off, he will undoubtedly cause us problems—assuming he returns from injury.
Where will the key battles take place?
Liverpool’s strength, in my opinion, is their ability to quickly switch the play and create crossing opportunities.
This means it is imperative for Norwich‘s midfield to get as close to Liverpool’s as they can, in order to limit the supply to the full-backs in the final third.
That being said, nobody has been able to do that in the 25 games so far this season.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
Let’s go with an ambitious 2-1 defeat for the Canaries.
Mane and Virgil van Dijk for Liverpool, Duda for Norwich.