Norwich 4.35 The Draw 3.75 Liverpool 1.80
Exceeding Good (and Bad) Expectations
You’d struggle to pit two top-flight sides against one another with starker contrasting fortunes than Norwich and Liverpool this season. The Premier League table doesn’t lie – while Norwich are five places above where they set out to be, Liverpool are at least five places below meeting their own expectations. But though neither side has any tangible prize to play for this evening, I’m expecting a well-contested battle at Carrow Road.
Season So Far
Norwich’s fairytale first season back in the big time could hardly have gone better if Delia Smith had dug deep into her larder, rustled up enough food to feed the masses and raised a pile of cash to sign Lionel Messi. The fact is, Paul Lambert hasn’t needed Messi, or any so-called superstars for that matter, in fact his team’s entire manifesto is based on equality and hard work, an ethos that has served the Canaries splendidly.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, bar their cup supremacy, have had a dismal season under Kenny Dalglish, whose refusal to sign a goal poacher in January has condemned the Reds to mid-table mediocrity. If Man United are to stretch their title haul to 20 in the coming days and weeks, not even an FA Cup victory will sooth the frustration at Anfield.
Norwich slumped to two defeats in a row after an admirable win at White Hart Lane three weeks back. That the two subsequent defeats have been against title-chasing Man City and the resurgent, relegation-threatened Blackburn, could suggest that late season weariness and diluted motivation have become issues now that they’re safe. Liverpool ‘s motivation could also be questioned – Kenny Dalglish’s side have won just two of their last 11 EPL matches, picking up less points than everyone bar Wolves since New Year’s Eve, which pretty much says it all for a club who are considered part of the country’s traditional big four.
Liverpool have traditionally bossed this fixture, to such an extent that Norwich haven’t beaten the Reds at home since the first season of the Premier League. Norwich finished 3rd that year, and went on a voyage of discovery that included beating Bayern Munich as part of an incredible run in Europe. Anyway, I do digress.
Norwich will be without two former Liverpool youth team defenders in Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala, but with the versatile Russell Martin likely to fill in at centre half, they’ll be confident of holding their own, especially given the presence of Liverpool’s nemeses: Messrs Crossbar and Post. Meanwhile, the visitors are expected to welcome captain Steven Gerrard back to their line-up, which will serve as an inevitable boost.
Expect goals from both sides in this, but as Liverpool’s players stake their individual claims for Cup Final places, they will run away with it in the second half.
Despite their marvelous season, Norwich have kept just two clean sheets, fewer than any other side in the league. Even Liverpool’s misfiring frontline should be able to breakthrough the feeble yellow rearguard. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s normally watertight backline has been shaky to say the least. Back over 2.5 total goals at 1.75.