The FourFourTwo Preview: Norwich vs Man City
Manchester City's chance to shake off Monday night's hangover. But Norwich need the points too.
For both these teams, football's fluid, ever-changing nature has been on full display this last week. We 'ooh-ed' and 'aah-ed' at Man City's brilliant football at White Hart Lane and wondered if anybody could stop them as they tore apart Tottenham 5-1; before their air of invincibility was shattered by Jose Mourinho's Blue wall just days later.
- Cardiff 2-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 0–0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Norwich 1–0 Hull (Prem)
- Fulham 3–0 Norwich (FAC)
- Everton 2–0 Norwich (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 0-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Spurs 1-5 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 4-2 Watford (FAC)
- West Ham 0-3 Man City (LC)
- Man City 4-2 Cardiff (Prem)
Norwich's four points from six against Hull and Newcastle pushed the Canaries up towards mid-table, allowing them a small amount of breathing space to enjoy a welcome buffer from relegation's trapdoor.
The nature of this season's increasingly compressed Premier League table, however, meant that lofty league position was always on deceptively shaky ground, and defeat at Cardiff now sees Chris Hughton's team in 15th - two points above the drop zone and looking nervously over their shoulders.
Manuel Pellegrini's men destroyed Norwich 7-0 the last time these two teams met back in November, but after their 100 per cent home record was consigned to history by Chelsea, this could be as good a time as any to play the top scorers. Injury to key players Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho also offer Norwich an encouraging leveller.
Now two points behind Arsenal in the title race, will the wounded animal strike out fiercely and dish goal-filled vengeance on their green and yellow chums? Or will Norwich smell the blood from City's week of wound-licking and seize the opportunity for revenge?
Elliott Bennett (knee), Johnny Howson (back) and Michael Turner (hamstring) are expected to miss out for Norwich.
For City, Aguero (hamstring), Samir Nasri (knee) and Javi Garcia (knock) are absent. Fernandinho's mangy muscle sidelines him too.
Player to watch: Martin Demichelis (Man City)
Demichelis didn't actually do too much wrong against Chelsea. Deployed in a defensive midfield position unfamiliar to the Argentine since his Bayern Munich days, Demichelis completed 90% of his passes and won more tackles than anyone on the field (7) - equal with fellow countryman Pablo Zabaleta. But Demichelis is not Fernandinho. And, essentially, therein lies the problem.
The Brazilian has proven to be an excellent signing so far and his partnership with Ivorian powerhouse Yaya Toure has formed the bedrock upon which City's title tilt has been built. The duo are like Yin and Yang, wonderfully in tune with each other's behaviour and often in near perfect harmony. One sits, one goes, one holds, one drives; and the balance has been essential to Pellegrini's tactical setup.
In Fernandinho's absence that harmony was shattered against Chelsea, and in stepped Demichelis, who is - to put it politely - not quite as sleek or as fleet of foot. With James Milner and Javi Garcia absent and Jack Rodwell apparently deemed not reliable enough for such a grandiose occasion, Demichelis played as an emergency holding midfielder. Out of his natural habitat, his lack of mobility was exposed and proved a decisive factor in Mourinho's little ponies dominating the game's engine room. With Milner now fit again Demichelis should slot back into defence, but even there he hasn't universally convinced. Hughton may look at this potential chink in City's armour and consider ways to exploit the ogreish stopper's weaknesses.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- City 7-0 Norwich (Prem, Nov 13)
- City 2-3 Norwich (Prem, May 19)
- Norwich 3-4 City (Prem, Dec 12)
- Norwich 1-6 City (Prem, Apr 12)
- City 5-1 Norwich (Prem, Dec 11)
Hughton and Pellegrini have faced off once before and, well, we all know how that turned out. The former Newcastle gaffer probably won't knock too many notches off that cavernous 0-7 head-to-head goal difference come Saturday, but he can level the win record at 1-1 if his team grab three points.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Norwich have conceded 24 goals in their 5 matches against Man City since promotion in 2011/12, as 5/5 games had at least 5 goals.
- 12 of Norwich’s last 17 home matches have been level at half-time.
- 5 of Man City’s 6 away wins this season have come despite conceding.
- Man City have won their last 17 games following a defeat with 10 of the last 13 wins coming by more than one goal.
- 9 of Man City’s last 14 trips to bottom-half teams have had at least 4 goals.
Best Bet: Man City to score 3 goals or more @ 2.15
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Despite Robert Snodgrass' impressive creative streak, Norwich lack the attacking firepower to make the most of this occasion. City get back to winning ways. 1-3.