The FourFourTwo Preview: Norwich vs Swansea
On paper, the most vanilla game of the Premier League season so far. In reality, a potential goal mine (see what we did there?).
Former plucky promotees, now mid-tabler middlers with nice managers to boot - if you can find a game with less fanfare than this one we'll buy you something nice, like an ice cream maybe. To make it more interesting, FFT suggests the Premier League force both sides to go at it dressed as their club mascots. On an ice-skating rink. With fire-breathing obstacles tossed in for good measure.
- WBA 0-2 Norwich (Prem)
- Liverpool 5-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Newcastle 2-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 3-1 West Ham (Prem)
- St Gallen 1-0 Swansea (EL)
- Swansea 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Man City 3-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-1 Valencia (EL)
None of the above is likely to happen, though, so instead we'll have to discuss the real stuff. Bah. Really, Norwich could do with the points more than their Welsh counterparts, being only four points above the relegation zone and still touted as possible candidates for the drop.
Chris Hughton has at least steadied the ship at Carrow Road, though, with the Canaries winning three of their last five games against fellow strugglers West Ham, Crystal Palace and West Brom. It's those kinds of results against those around them that will help avoid a nervy end to the campaign and build towards a more suitable mid-table finish.
Against bottom-half sides Hughton's men have conceded only three goals this season - a far cry from those trouncings at Manchester City and Liverpool - but they're only averaging a goal every game in those fixtures too. It's enough at the moment, but a few more flying in at the right end will give the Canaries the breathing room they need.
Hoping to beat Norwich for only the third time this season on their own patch are Swansea, who scrapped an awkward 1-1 draw against Hull on Monday. Chico's equaliser went in off the Spaniard's hand, while the visitors were also denied a clear-cut penalty. Boss Michael Laudrup will be praying the Swans recapture the form that earned them a superb 3-0 win over Newcastle just a week earlier.
Overall they'll be reasonably pleased with their season so far - at very least they're not in the drop-dodging dogfight, nestling neatly in 10th with a goal difference of +1. But you get the feeling there isn't too much more to come from Laudrup's men this year unless last season's marksman Michu can rediscover his scoring touch.
The former Real Oviedo man hasn't netted in his last six league games, while summer signing Wilfried Bony hasn't exactly set the top flight alight with his prowess in front of goal either.
The annoying thing is that they have the players to do more. Swansea are averaging almost 60% possession with 87% passing accuracy this season - the highest figures of any side in the league - but carving out a meagre 13.4 shots per game (ninth-highest average). A bit less prancing with a bit more advancing might do the trick.
Norwich have no new injury worries and could welcome back Ricky van Wolfswinkel after a seven-game absence where manager Hughton was still getting over his funny name. Robert Snodgrass (knee) won't return for a couple of weeks. Anthony Pilkington (hamstring), Alex Tettey (ankle) and Elliott Bennett (knee) are out.
Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm should return after missing the Hull game, but he is only playing through the pain barrier and delaying surgery. Alvaro Vasquez (groin), Leon Britton (ankle) and Garry Monk (knee) are out. Centre-back Chico Flores will also miss the trip after picking up his fifth yellow card on Monday night.
Player to watch: Gary Hooper (Norwich)
Norwich have won three of their last five in the Premier League, and that upturn in fortune has been largely down to the clinical nature of their summer signing.
The former Celtic striker scored in all three of those recent wins - against West Ham, Crystal Palace and West Brom - having spent the early weeks of the season sidelined through injury and a lack of fitness caused by a disrupted pre-season. Hooper was afforded just one opening against Palace and the Baggies - and in both matches he grabbed his chance to seal the points for his new club. With Van Wolfswinkel failing to hit the ground running in East Anglia, his goals could be crucial in keeping the Canaries' heads above water.
All Norwich need to do is give him the ball, says their manager: "If we provide him with chances, he can get goals. His record shows that he's a very good finisher, but we've got to be able to feed him."
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'wich 2-2 Swans (Prem, Apr 13)
- Swans 3-4 N'wich (Prem, Dec 12)
- Swans 2-3 N'wich (Prem, Feb 12)
- N'wich 3-1 Swans (Prem, Oct 11)
- Swans 3-0 N'wich (C’ship, Apr 11)
Awww, what a lovely pair. They've only met twice before - last season, when the teams actually played out two entertaining tussles. Hughton's Norwich held out for a 4-3 win at the Liberty, before the return fixture at Carrow Road finished two apiece.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- There have been 20 goals scored in just four Premier League meetings between Norwich and Swansea.
- Swansea and Norwich have both scored in their last four meetings.
Geographically this is the widest east-west fixture ever to feature in the English top flight.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Not many sides go to Carrow Road and find joy - 1-1 written all over it.