The FourFourTwo Preview: Norwich vs Newcastle
The Jonas Gutierrez Appreciation Society. (Warning: does not contain Jonas Gutierrez.)
- Norwich 1-0 Hull (Prem)
- Fulham 3-0 Norwich (FAC)
- Everton 2-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-1 Fulham (FAC)
- Palace 1-1 Norwich (Prem)
- West Ham 1-3 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-2 Cardiff (FAC)
- WBA 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
For the Canaries, this meant an additional few days to soak up the positive vibes from an absolutely vital victory over Hull in their last game, a 1-0 win that ended an eight-game winless streak and lifted Chris Hughton's men up to 12th in the table, five points clear of the relegation zone.
Like the release of a pressure valve, that late win secured by Ryan Bennett appears to have worked wonders for Norwich's confidence and club captain Russell Martin has spoken of the "elation" felt by the players after that game. The aim now will be to push on from here, and if possible improve on a home record that has seen Hughton's side score just 11 goals in 11 games.
For Newcastle, the prolonged fixture pause meant a few more days to try and enjoy a solid 3-1 win at West Ham - a result that consolidated the Magpies' position in the top eight. In truth, however, much of that time will have been spent rebuffing advances from various clubs sniffing around midfield maestro Yohan Cabaye, like flies around a birthday cake.
PSG are the latest team to make an offer for arguably Newcastle's best player, and a £14 million bid was turned down over the weekend. Laurent Blanc has long been an admirer of Cabaye, so a few nervous days are in store on Tyneside before the close of the January window, with moneybags PSG likely to increase their offer and Manchester United waiting in the wings.
Newcastle haven't won at Carrow Road since goals from Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole handed them a 2-1 win 20 years ago this month, but with six wins from 11 away games this campaign Alan Pardew's men can be confident.
For Norwich, Michael Turner is out with a hamstring injury, Johnny Howson has back trouble, Gutierrez is unavailable under the terms of his loan deal and Elliott Bennett remains injured. Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor are Alan Pardew's only absentees.
Key battle: Leroy Fer vs Yohan Cabaye
To the engine room! With Newcastle's Gallic dreamboat Cabaye in fine form, scoring 5 goals in his last 8 games, Norwich will have to come up with a plan to deal with him. That's where Fer comes in. The Canaries' horse-purchasing Dutchman is currently in the Premier League's top 15 for tackles per game and his signing has been a real coup at Carrow Road.
Fer brings that typically Dutch grace and technique on the ball but can also mix it when needed. Both he and Bradley Johnson will need to be wary of Cabaye's late runs into the box, and above all must be quick to close down space. Cabaye will shoot from almost anywhere - he's 6th in the league for shots per game - and often does it well. The midfield battle will go a long way to deciding this game.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'castle 2–1 N'wich (Prem, Nov 13)
- N'wich 0–0 N'castle (Prem, Jan 13)
- N'castle 1–0 N'wich (Prem, Sep 12)
- N'castle 1–0 N'wich (Prem, Mar 12)
- N'wich 4–2 N'castle (Prem, Dec 11)
Newcastle have already been responsible for Hughton losing his job once and so it could be again this week should the Magpies come away with three points. Sacked from his post at St James' Park in 2010/11, the Canaries gaffer is under huge pressure after Norwich chief executive David McNally's recent comments that he "would prefer death rather than relegation" (bit dramatic there, Dave). Victory over Hull helped, but Hughton needs further results if he is to escape the sword of Damocles that has been above his head for much of the season.
Alan Pardew, meanwhile, will look to go 90 minutes without insulting any old people.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Norwich have gone into the break deadlocked in 7 of their 11 home fixtures this season.
- The Canaries have had fewer than 3 goals in 7 of their last 9 home matches against middle-third teams, with 6 of these matches providing no more than a solitary goal.
- The Magpies have gone into the break level in 5 of their last 10 away matches against middle-third teams but have yet to register an away draw this season (W6 L5).
Best Bet: First Half Draw @ 3.50
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