Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
When: 2nd March, 2013
Kick off time: 20:30 IST, 15:00 BST
Manchester United host Norwich City this Saturday and given their current form, one can safely bet on the Red Devils wrapping up a routine victory. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side host the Canaries with one eye firmly set on the return leg of the Champions League fixture against Real Madrid. 12 points clear at the top of the table, SAF knows that barring any slip-ups like last season, a 20th League Title is all but sealed.
Norwich are 8 points clear off the relegation zone and in no immediate threat of going down there. Chris Hughton’s men did wonderfully to pull of a win against Everton last week and will try every trick on the book to stop a rampaging United side. They could very well take inspiration from the fact that they were the last team to beat United in the Premier League, in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
United are the obvious favorites to romp home here, but the pressure and distraction of the Champions League fixture might well give Norwich a look in.
United will look to rest a number of key players in order to have a full strength squad available against Real Madrid, so expect a lot of chopping and changing. RVP and Rooney will be rested, with the former nursing a freak hip injury. Michael Carrick too will be allowed a breather after his non stop games. Phil Jones will also be given maximum healing time to be fit for the Madrid tie. So expect the likes of Kagawa, Anderson and Smalling to start this game.
Hughton’s men have nothing to lose in the fixture, so one could very well see a full strength side against United, to go all out and put pressure on the League leaders. They’re missing no. 1 keeper John Ruddy though, so Mark Bunn willl deputize again. Winter signing Kei Kamara will be expected to start, having scored already in the league and also having netted one against United during his time at Kansas City in the MLS.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Robin Van Persie – Hip Injury (no date set)
Phil Jones – Ankle injury (no date set)
Paul Scholes – Knee Injury (doubtful)
Darren Fletcher – Chronic bowel condition (no date set)
Andrew Surman – Knee injury (1 week)
John Ruddy – Hip injury (3 weeks)
Alexander Tettey – Knee injury (1 week)
Manchester United (4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1)
United will go into this game with one eye on the Madrid fixture, so many changes are expected with key players being given a breather. Anders Lindegaard could make a rare appearance between the sticks and will be looking to keep a clean sheet against the Canaries this time around. The back four too could see Smalling slot in at rightback, with Ferdinand, Evans taking up central duties and Alex Buttner getting another opportunity to impress at leftback. The midfield could see Anderson and Tom Cleverley start together, with Giggs and Nani on the wings. The Portuguese winger must use this chance to impress if he wants to start against his compatriot during midweek. Shinji Kagawa will be the playmaker, trying to thread balls through to Chicharito, who will be constantly playing off the shoulder of the last man.
Norwich City (4-4-2)
Norwich City go into this game missing goalkeeper John Ruddy to injury which will be a big blow. Mark Bunn has been an able deputy this season, so Ruddy shouldn’t be missed. Martin, Turner, Basson and Garrido complete an obvious back four and will have to be on top of their game to keep United’s attacking force at bay. The midfield battle will be at its best, with Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson and Pilkington looking to keep the ball away from United and preventing their playmakers from seeing too much of the ball. Pilkington and Snodgrass are also able goalscoring threats. Upfront, inspirational skipper Grant Holt and winter signing Kei Kamara will be looking to breach United’s second shuffled defence once again.
Manchester United (WWDWW)
23rd February, 2013 : QPR 0-2 Man United (EPL)
18th February, 2013 : Man United 2-1 Reading (FA Cup)
13th February, 2013 : Real Madrid 1-1Man United (UEFA Champions League)
10th February, 2013 : Man United 2-0 Everton (EPL)
2nd February, 2013 : Fulham 0-1 Man United (EPL)
Norwich City (WDDDL)
23rd February, 2013 : Norwich City 2-1 Everton (EPL)
09th February, 2013 : Norwich City0-0 Fulham (EPL)
2nd February, 2013 : QPR 0-0 Norwich City (EPL)
30th January, 2013 : Norwich City 1-1 Tottenham (EPL)
26th January, 2013 : Norwich City 0-1 Luton (FA Cup)
17th November, 2012 : Norwich City 1-0 Manchester United (EPL)
26th February, 2012: Norwich City 1-2 Manchester United (EPL)
1st October, 2011 : Manchester United 2-0 Norwich City (EPL)
Manchester United vs Pressure
Manchester United don’t really have anything to fear from Norwich City as such. They’re playing at home, the team is in form and players are returning from injuries and slotting in pretty well. What they have to guard against though, is the pressure. Last season they let an eight point lead slip away in the dying stages of the season to gift the title to their neighbors. This time they’re battling on all three fronts, and with the Madrid fixture a few days away, it could well be playing on the minds of the players. SAF is a master of such occasions and it’ll be up to him to shield his players from any sort of distraction or buckling during “Squeaky bum time”.
Odds: Manchester United 3/4, Draw 5/1, Norwich 10/1
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Norwich City
Telecast: India- ESPN, UK-Sky Sports/HD/3D, ESPNPublished 28 Feb 2013, 23:35 IST