With Saturday’s visit to Anfield just around the corner one hopes City are able to put right some of the wrongs from that early season 5-2 thumping.
On that dreadful September day Luis Suarez – with a little help from his friends – put us well and truly to the sword, and added yet another hat-trick to his Carrow Road collection. The memories remain painful ones to this day and I defy any City fan to recall that afternoon without succumbing to a wince or frown.
Thankfully things have changed significantly since 29th September – I’m happy to ignore our current five-game winless streak for now – and Liverpool can expect to see as many as seven changes to the XI that started that day.
One player likely to figure, and who was also part of the September debacle, is Michael Turner. The source of much derision early in his City career – the Liverpool game looming large in his early-season CV – he would almost certainly take the ‘most improved Norwich player’ award if such a thing existed.
Whilst others may prefer to treat the visit to Anfield as ‘just another game’, Turner is looking to tackle it head-on, and he told the Evening News, ‘We will be looking to put in a performance there to hopefully get one back on them a little bit’. He also cited the dreadful early start to the Carrow Road game, with Suarez giving the Reds the lead before many of the River-End latecomers had even taken their seats.
If my memory serves me correctly, Turner was partly culpable for that horrendous opening. Let’s hope the Yellow Army are all in situ before anything of note happens on Saturday and indeed – if all goes to plan – no-one clad in yellow will complain if the first quarter passes off uneventfully.
Suarez is an interesting one… loathed by large chunk of the footballing community for the way controversy follows him – City fans being no exception – he’s one of those who, despite the flaws, is acknowledged by just about everyone as a brilliant footballer.
In a Q&A this week with Matt Ladson, joint editor of Liverpool’s top independent website www.thisisanfield.com, he questioned City fans’ dislike of the Uruguayan. ‘… he hasn’t been involved in any controversial incidents involving Norwich, so it’s just general let’s all hate Suarez’. Popular he certainly isn’t in the Canary Nation but – ignoring the flaws – in my view is simply the result of him scoring shed loads of goals against us.
With the Brendan Rogers career path being – until now – of a similar trajectory to our ex-manager, the Merseyside perception of their new man is an understandable one… ‘It was never going to be easy replacing Dalglish, and the opening fixtures were a baptism of fire. Most have accepted that this is going to be a long process under Rodgers and effectively this season is null. He has been received with general optimism but it would be fair to say the jury is definitely still out’.
Whether City can match Lambert’s pre-Christmas visit to Anfield – when Aston Villa won 3-1 – remains to be seen, but it appears Rogers’ stock on Merseyside is currently a few notches higher than the Scot’s Birmingham equivalent.
In terms of who City need to wary of on Saturday, with the obvious exceptions of Suarez, Gerrard etc, Matt chucked up an unexpected name. ‘Obviously Sterling started like a house on fire but has struggled of late and clearly needs a rest, Allen likewise. Henderson has actually impressed when given the opportunity and is benefitting from not playing every single game like he was last season.’
Clearly Jordan Henderson has moved on successfully from his ‘average’ appearance as England Under-21 skipper at Carrow Road back in October.
There were no surprises however when asked who, if anyone, at Anfield takes the ‘Andy Hughes award’… ‘Two years ago it was Lucas, last season it was Henderson, now it seems to be Joe Allen of late. Stewart Downing can do no-right but that’s actually because he literally can do nothing right’.
Interesting that Joe Allen – him of last season’s Swanseaola fame – has appeared on the radar of the Liverpool ‘boo boys’, especially given the fanfare that accompanied his departure north. Of Rogers’ other summer signings… ‘None have impressed in all honesty. Sahin has already left after being bizarrely used out of position by Rodgers. Assaidi hasn’t started a League game. Allen has failed to justify the £15m price tag, thus far. And Fabio Borini hasn’t settled either, it will be good to have him back from injury and hopefully he can add some options up front’.
In terms of the Mersysiders perception of City… ‘You’ll finish top half of the bottom. I quite like Chris Hughton, decent coach’.
Given our indifferent run of form, I think we’d take that right now and it’s certainly good to see that others view Hughton to be the ‘decent’ manager that we all know him to be.
It was no surprise that Grant Holt’s name came up when asked which City player the Reds considers most likely to have an impact on Saturday. More of a surprise is that they find big, bustling strikers difficult to handle per se… ‘Liverpool struggle when up against strong centre-forwards, have done for years; Benteke and Kenwyne Jones this season in particular’.
From an outsider looking in I would have expected Skrtel and Agger to be more comfortable against those of that ilk – as opposed to the Agueros of this world – but perhaps it goes part way to explaining why Holt and Morison have both caused the Reds problems of late.
I think we can expect to see 9. Grant Holt on Saturday’s team-sheet – dodgy hamstrings permitting.
A top eight finish for Liverpool is Matt’s modest prediction for the season, with the weekend money going on a 2-0 win (goals from Suarez and Sturridge).
From a City perspective – whilst always going to be a difficult one – we need to find an away performance akin to the win at the Liberty Stadium. Another defeat and I fear for the health of some of the doom-mongers.
Let’s be positive; if Villa can do it…
Matt Ladson is joint-editor of www.thisisanfield.com
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