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Liverpool V Norwich at Anfield : Match Preview
Updated published : 18 Jan 2013 14:31:22
Liverpool V Norwich - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Rodgers: Sturridge criticism is unfair
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed any doubts over the attitude of Daniel Sturridge as the striker prepares to make his Anfield debut.
The 23-year-old is at his third big club in less than four years after leaving Manchester City in 2009 to play only 96 matches, almost half as substitute, for Chelsea.
Rumours persisted about Sturridge's personality and suitability for the Premier League - indeed Rodgers was interested in signing him in August but reportedly wanted to take him on loan first.
But his #12million move to Merseyside could not have got off to a better start with goals in his first two appearances, one in the FA Cup victory at Mansfield and the other in the defeat to Manchester United last weekend.
He has certainly made an impact early, scoring seven minutes into the cup tie and 12 minutes after coming on at half-time at Old Trafford.
And Rodgers was keen to defend his new signing against the whispering campaign which has accompanied his short career so far.
"It has been very unfair, I have to say" said the Reds boss.
"I remember being at Chelsea and I'd heard all these things about Nicolas Anelka being an awkward player and I found him one of the nicest guys I ever met in football.
"Sometimes when you are quiet and you focus on yourself you can be criticised for being awkward, but I don't think that is the case with Daniel at all.
"I was aware of him beforehand and I think any frustrations and disappointments he's had were purely down to the basis he wasn't playing or getting an opportunity.
"I can understand that. He went (to Chelsea) as a 20-year-old and it was always going to be difficult for him to play.
"But he has mixed well here and is very hungry to learn. It is going to take time for him to feel at ease and comfortable.
"This will be his first time playing at Anfield and that is a real special feeling."
Defender Jose Enrique is still not fully fit after a hamstring problem, so Glen Johnson will continue to deputise at left-back.
Jordan Henderson could challenge for Joe Allen's place in midfield.
Meanwhile, Chris Hughton takes his Norwich side to Anfield determined not to become yet another notch on the goal-scoring barrel of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
Hughton has been trying to beef up his own strike force but has had a bid rejected for Celtic's Gary Hooper, while Press Association Sport understands he is also waiting on a formal bid of more than #4million for Swansea striker Danny Graham.
At Anfield he comes up against a goal predator in Suarez who could be worth 10 times that and who in the last two matches between the teams has scored consecutive hat-tricks.
If Suarez could make it a hat-trick of hat-tricks against Norwich, the controversial Uruguayan might even deflect some of the criticism which has accompanied his latest admission that he dived against Stoke earlier this season.
Hughton believes it is time people started seeing Suarez for his special footballing qualities rather than his shortcomings.
Hughton said: "Suarez has proved this season what a good player he is. Whatever problems he has had he has managed to put them behind him and be right up there in the goal-scoring charts.
"He is somebody who plays consistently. He is a very tough individual. All I see is an excellent player.
"I have been very impressed with his level of performance this season.
"He scored three excellent goals (against Norwich in September) which would have graced any game. But he is only one of a very good side and they are in a good rhythm at the moment."
Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson returns after missing the goalless draw against Newcastle last weekend through illness while striker Grant Holt is now fully fit after hamstring problems.