Norwich City vs Manchester City: Match preview
Stadium: Carrow Road
Referee: Mike Jones
Kick-off: 8:30 PM (IST), Saturday, 29th of December
After Boxing Day defeats in their respective fixtures, the reigning champions Manchester City travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich City, in what will be a tricky fixture for Mancini’s men. Having struggled to break down lowly Sunderland in midweek, even falling to an Adam Johnson effort from far and wide, they now find themselves seven points behind their city rivals in the title race. Norwich, on the other hand, sit in a mid-table position, reasonably distant from the relegation battle, but quite a way off the battle for European positions as well. However, they have demonstrated their ability in recent times, and should be looking to give their fans a joyous treat in the last fixture of the year.
Norwich City: W L W L L
With three defeats in four games since their ten match unbeaten streak crashed against Aston Villa, one can say that form has deserted the Canaries. However, their other two losses have both come against decent opposition, in the form of Chelsea and West Brom; with the margin being just one goal on each occasion. In fact, against Chelsea, Norwich may have failed to create too many chances of their own, but managed to shut Chelsea out reasonably comfortably apart, of course, from a well taken Juan Mata goal.
Thus, Chris Hughton will be quietly confident that his team can register a clean sheet at home if Manchester City’s attack continues to be off key as it has often been this season. Up front, however, it will be entirely up to Snodgrass or Grant Holt, as the two top league scorers for Norwich this season with just 4 goals a-piece.
Manchester City: L L W W L
A defeat to Sunderland, especially when it came through former player Adam Johnson, would have hurt Mancini’s side both mentally, as well as in the title race. With the African Cup of Nations coming up as well, they are all set to lose influential midfielder Yaya Toure for nearly a month, and with a seven point deficit to make up, it is not good news for the fans at the Etihad. City have actually struggled of late in the league, with just seven points from the last possible fifteen, which is lesser even than Norwich, who have nine.
City’s defensive record also hasn’t stood for much recently, as they only have 1 clean sheet from their last six games, that too against bottom dwellers, Reading. Thus, with hardship all around, it is more important now than ever, for City to come out fighting and end up on top, if they are to press on and retain their title.
Norwich City: Andrew Surman, John Ruddy, Steven Whittaker.
Manchester City: Jack Rodwell, Micah Richards, Gael Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov, Samir Nasri, Mario Balotelli.
Mark Bunn vs Yaya Toure
In the seven starts that he has made for Norwich since the injury to John Ruddy, Mark Bunn has conceded at least one goal in each game, and a total of 13. With nearly two goals conceded per game, and a weakness for keeping out efforts which come in a flurry, the ‘keeper can’t be looking forward too much to the City game, seeing as it will bring with it Yaya Toure, who in spite of not scoring in his last two fixtures, has been driving forward more often of late, and putting himself in the box on set-pieces. Weak ‘keeping is exactly the kind of thing that Toure, Aguero and co. prey on, and for Norwich’s sake, one hopes that Bunn can raise his game a notch for the visit of the champions.
Robert Snodgrass vs Gael Clichy
Snodgrass is the in-form man for Norwich this weekend, with three goals and two assists in the recent past, and a reasonably good performance against a dominant Chelsea in midweek. He will likely be up against Gael Clichy, who, in spite of defending well, seems to lose concentration for a moment or two at times, allowing attackers to capitalise as they have on more than one occasion already this season. It’ll be an interesting tussle between the Scotsman and the Frenchman, and one hopes it doesn’t lead to some cliche joke surrounding their nationalities.
A comfortable win for the visitors, if history is anything to go by. The teams have played each other thrice in the past, with the sky blues winning on each occasion. In fact, when the “new” City took on Norwich last season in the league, they scored a total of 11 goals over two games, and conceded 2; indicating the fact that it may well have been these games that helped them win the title on goal difference. However, Norwich have been playing like a “new” side as well this season, and should put up more of a fight this time than both times combined last season.