League leaders Liverpool travel to bottom-side Norwich on Saturday evening as Jurgen Klopp’s side look to extend their formidable advantage at the top of the Premier League.
Fresh from a break where they rested their first team when defeating Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, Klopp will be looking to balance the squad between Saturday’s trip to Norwich and a Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid in midweek. With such a resounding lead in the Premier League, rotation could play a part in Klopp’s thinking, and is something to be wary of.
Norwich come into the game having picked up their form after the Christmas period, aided by January signings bolstering their ranks, and with one defeat in four in all competitions, they will be confident of causing Liverpool problems.
The upturn in form for Daniel Farke’s side may have come too late to stop their slide towards the Championship sitting seven points from safety, but with Liverpool’s minds potentially looking towards the Champions League clash, the Canaries could sense an opportunity.
The sides met on the opening day, with Norwich being defeated 4-1 as Klopp’s side brushed them aside with a fantastic attacking display in the first half, and it will be interesting to see whether Farke adapts his approach from this meeting.
Norwich have been able to pick up results against the Premier League’s top sides this season, with Manchester City falling to defeat at Carrow Road, whilst Spurs were given a scare earlier in January when facing Farke’s side at home, and it will be interesting whether Norwich continue with their open, attacking approach for the visit of Liverpool.
Norwich’s willingness to play out from the back has seen them create their own problems at times this season, but when it comes off, as was seen against Manchester City earlier in the season, it can bring fantastic results on the counter attack. Often, the top sides look to press Norwich on the ball, and whilst mistakes under the press saw the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea score goals against Farke’s side, they also showed how much a threat they are on the break, and Liverpool will have to balance whether or not to press, and be subsequently left caught out at the back.
Farke has an array of attacking options at his disposal, but the line will certainly be led by Teemu Pukki, and his movement in behind a high defensive line has often caused problems throughout the season for opposition sides. This was evident against Liverpool in the first meeting, as the Finnish striker was able to find the back of the net, whilst it was a similar story as he caused Jose Mourinho’s Spurs side problems with the high line. Although Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez do have the pace to cover the striker, it is an area Klopp will have to wary of, and could see some unexpected tactical tweaks from the German.
By playing a high line and high press, it also brings into play the runs from deep from the front three of Norwich, and this is a role in particular that Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendia have thrived in this season. Cantwell was able to net a fantastic break away goal against Arsenal’s high line in their 2-2 draw at Carrow Road, and these attackers moving up with Pukki will be crucial to stopping Pukki from being isolated, and the ball constantly returning.
Ondrej Duda and Lukas Rupp joined in January, and these two players fit the tactical mould that Farke is looking to develop, and it has seen his tactics continue despite their indifferent form all season. The wingers look to move narrow and pack central areas, allowing the full backs to push high and provide width, and whilst it means they can overload teams and retain the ball well in central areas, it leaves them particularly open at the back, and this could be their downfall once again, as was the case in the reverse meeting.
From Liverpool’s point of view, balancing whether or not to press will determine how open they opt to play, and the role of the holding midfielder, whether Fabinho, Jordan Henderson or even Adam Lallana, will be crucial to stopping Norwich from counter attacking, and turning the ball over quickly. With little aerial threat up front, the ball will need to be played into the attackers feet, and this will mean that the holding midfielder will have a sweeping up job in front of the backline, and if performed well, it could catch Norwich out in transition as they look to counter, and leave them outnumbered at the back. It could see the tackles market appeal on the Liverpool midfielders as a result, and is one to watch.
By turning the ball over quickly, it will leave Norwich open at the back, as they were able to in the reverse fixture, and with the attacking threat of Roberto Firminio, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to contend with in behind, it could spell problems for Norwich’s defence. With Ben Godfrey returning, it does offer them a bit more cover with a higher line, but questions over Christopher Zimmermann and his ability to deal with this threat are concerning, whilst the narrow attackers can leave the wide areas vulnerable, particularly with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson looking to maraud forward at every opportunity.
With the threat Liverpool pose on the break, it may be worth considering that Klopp will look to sit off Norwich and invite the pressure on, looking for Norwich to commit men forward, before hitting Farke’s side on the break. If so, it opens up an interesting angle on the Norwich passing markets when priced, and with Godfrey particularly confident on the ball from deep, he could rack up the passes, and this is something to consider when priced.
How Norwich approach the game awaits to be seen, and it is a tough one to call as to whether Farke will opt for damage limitation if going goals behind, or given their current league situation, keep pressing on even if a few goals down, with nothing to lose, even with Liverpool’s counter attacking threat. Liverpool themselves have Europe to contend with in midweek, and how this effects team selection and game management must be factored in, and calling these two main angles should create the most value.
I am going with the approach that Liverpool will want to have the game wrapped up by half time, and up against a side that can be leaky at the back and allow a high volume of chances, seeing Liverpool in front at half time can be expected. However, I do also think that much like the first meeting between the two sides, Liverpool could look to race to a formidable lead by half time, and for Liverpool to be leading at half time and over 1.5 goals in the first half does appeal. Southampton took the game to Liverpool before the break, and they were subsequently made to pay on the counter, and it could be a similar story again on Saturday, so with the above bet available at 3.10 (Bet365), I can’t turn this down.
Against building upon this angle, Liverpool to have over 3.5 corners in the first half also takes appeal at 2.0 (Bet365), especially when considering some of the tactical pointers previously discussed. Norwich tend to allow space out wide, and with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson encouraged to move beyond their wingers and look to probe the box with crosses, it should see a high volume of these racked up in the first half with Klopp’s side on the front foot.
Although the danger is Liverpool looking to sit back after netting the first, a willingness to have the game finished early is hard to overlook, and backs up these two angles of attack.