Preview: Norwich City

After a hectic run of fixtures since the start of October, the month of January is a period of respite for the Sky Blues and the Championship as a whole. With only one midweek round of fixtures and the opportunity to plug gaps in the squad with new signings, this is a time to address flaws in the team before the mad dash toward the end of the season.

Given how congested this season has been and will soon again be, there is a clear advantage to be gained from exiting the FA Cup at the earliest possible opportunity. With our hosts for this game, Norwich City, in the promotion race and ourselves looking to stay in the Championship, it’s hard to imagine either manager trying too hard to win. At the very least, this game is likely to be used as an opportunity to see what fringe players can do in a (semi) competitive environment, which could have an impact on plans in the January transfer market.

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Camp; Pask, McFadzean, Thompson; Dacosta, James, Eccles, Giles; Hilssner, Allen; Bakayoko.
Possible Line-Up

Expected Line-Up

While the squad is carrying a fair few injuries at the moment, there is nothing to prevent Mark Robins naming almost an entirely changed starting XI for this game.

Starting in goal, this is likely to be Lee Camp’s one opportunity to stake a claim for a longer stay at the club. However, it’s hard to see Camp earning a longer stay regardless of his performance here, but playing well will stand him in good stead if Ben Wilson suddenly loses form or Marko Marosi’s injury lasts longer than anticipated.

In defence, Jordon Thompson and Josh Pask will get a chance to vie for the position as fourth-choice centre-back, although both may be more concerned about playing well enough to earn a decent loan move. At wing-back, this looks set to be our first proper look at Julien Dacosta, while Ryan Giles is guaranteed to start on the left given that Sam McCallum is ineligible to face his parent club.

In midfield, all eyes will be on whether Matty James is handed his debut for the club after signing during the week. Given the player’s injury record, Mark Robins may be tempted to keep his powder dry on James for more meaningful games but it may be worth risking him in order to help ease him into life at the club. Josh Eccles seems likely to start alongside James after his recall from a decent loan spell at Gillingham this week.

In the attacking positions, this could be a big game for Marcel Hilssner to force himself into the first-team reckoning after an injury-hit first few months in England. It will either be Jamie Allen or Will Bapaga alongside him, supporting Amadou Bakayoko, who looks set to lead the forward line.

Last Time We Met

It was just over a month ago that we last took the trip to Carrow Road, with the Sky Blues producing an encouraging performance against a Norwich City side missing nearly a full team due to injuries and suspensions.

With Mark Robins naming an understrength side with his eye on a run of games against relegation contenders ahead, he would have been encouraged by how the team acquitted itself against what was still a very capable Norwich side. The Sky Blues had the better of the opening stages but couldn’t quite put the ball into the net. This allowed Norwich to build a head of steam before they eventually cut through our defence and took the lead via a penalty conceded by Ben Wilson on his full debut for the club.

As the game wore on, it was apparent that Norwich were tiring and thus there was something to be salvaged from this game. Mark Robins upped the ante via introducing first-choice players from the bench, which eventually allowed the team to level the scores. Gustavo Hamer played an excellent cross-field pass to Ryan Giles, who bravely put a cross in just as Max Aarons attempted to clear him out, which deflected off a Norwich defender and landed at the feet of a sharp Maxime Biamou to earn the Sky Blues a point.

The Opposition

The Manager – Daniel Farke

Norwich City’s faith in the German after relegation from the Premier League has been rewarded with top-spot in the Championship at the half-way stage of the season. While Norwich haven’t quite played with the panache that characterised their promotion push under Farke two seasons ago, they have benefitted from retaining superior attacking talent in the forms of Teemu Pukki and Emiliano Buendia while being tighter at the back, which has proven a formula for success.

Still feeling the effects of a nightmare run of injuries over the past couple of months, Daniel Farke is likely to want to use this game as an opportunity to both rest key players and help bring recent absentees up to fitness. Given Norwich’s strength in depth – particularly in midfield and attack – Farke will still be able to name a team that would be first-choice at the majority of Championship clubs.

Possible Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Barden; Aarons, Zimmermann, Gibson, Quintilla; Sorensen, Tettey; Martin, Dowell, Placheta; Hugill.
Possible Line-Up

Who To Look Out For

Target-man, Jordan Hugill, is likely to be handed a start here as he looks to accelerate his return from injury. The former Preston North End and QPR striker has proven to be a reliable goalscorer at Championship level in recent years and will be one of the key threats for our defence to deal with.

Behind Hugill, the directness of winger Przemyslaw Placheta caused us a lot of problems last time out and, although he often lacks the awareness to put in a final ball, is likely to stretch our back line in this game again. On the other flank, youngster Josh Martin looks set to be given another chance to impress with his movement and intelligent use of the ball. Threading things together in the middle, Kieran Dowell is an attacking midfielder with an ability to produce unpredictable, match-winning moments.

Further back, Norwich have less capacity for change. Club stalwart, Alex Tettey, will likely be tasked with breaking things up in midfield to protect what is an experienced and powerful Norwich back-line. Left-back, Xavi Quintilla, will be given a run-out to help step up his recovery from injury, the Spaniard having been so good as to have convinced Norwich that they would be better off loaning out Sam McCallum.

Where This Game Will Be Won Or Lost

Norwich’s greater strength in depth makes them the favourites for this game. We saw in the last meeting between the two sides that they can get into a confident and incisive pattern of play at the drop of a hat and, with the benefit of a stronger bench, are more likely to sustain their dominance than they were five weeks ago.

This is a game likely to be decided by which team is more motivated to push for the win, or simply, whoever gets the first goal. Neither side is likely to be too bothered by exiting this competition and it’s hard to see anyone looking to chase the game late-on if the score is against them.

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