Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle.
Date: Sat 23rd Nov, 2013.
Kick off: 3.00pm.
Referee: Mike Dean.
UK TV: None.
Chris Hughton’s Norwich City seem to be a team in transition at the moment.
Despite bringing in quite a few new players in the last transfer window and very creditable 11th and 12th placed finishes in their last two campaigns, they still have a very modest squad by Premier League standards. Both Hughton’s predecessor Paul Lambert and Hughton himself punched well above their weight, so much so that some Norwich fans have become rather unrealistic about the squad’s real strength, with some ingrates even calling for Hughton’s sacking when, for the first time since they were promoted, they were about where they should have been, third or fourth from the bottom of the table.
Quite a bit if this has probably been due to the two managers difference in approach. Whilst Hughton’s predessor Paul Lambert would have a go, I think it could be said Hughton’s approach to get Norwich punching above their weight in the League was somewhat more cautious and ‘defensive’ in his first season at Carrow Road, albeit with very similar results in the League for the two managers.
This season, Hughton seems to have been a little more experimental in an attempt to be more attacking with two strikers or even a 4-3-3 instead of a lone man upfront. Of course this can be a risky path in the early stages, especially with a brace of new players to bed into the team. The Canaries have taken some right old pastings this season, the worst undoubtedly being a 7-0 slaughter by Manchester City in their previous game but one. However they rose like a Phoenix from the ashes in their next game against Fat Sam’s West Ham. Despite going down to a Ravel Morrison goal in the first half, an excellent second half from Hughton’s men saw them finishing the game as 3-1 victors against a team who can be very difficult to break down. So, at what could be a erratic stage for the Canaries, it’s hard to know quite what to expect from them at 3 O’Clock this afternoon.
As for the Magpies, of course, they are coming into this game on the back of two excellent results, wins against Chelsea and Tottenham respectively. However those glorious victories have been balanced out by disappointing capitulations to less fancied teams like Hull and worst of all of course, Sunderland. Hence words like “erratic” and “inconsistent” have been used fairly often in realtion to Newcastle United this season.
So, although Newcastle should be the strong favourites, especially with the home advantage, nothing can be taken for granted and it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that there could be a surprise from another less fancied team.
Last six Premier League games, most recent first.
Jonas Gutierrez has finally returned from compassionate leave and will be available. Just as a side observation, I can only think of five Premier League players who have given compassionate leave, and three of them, Carlos Tevez, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez have been Argentinian. The other two were Wayne Rooney and Nicholas Anelka and they only got a few days for a bereavement, but I digress. Getting back to the subject at hand, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett have also returned to training and should be available for selection. This means that apart from the luckless Ryan Taylor, Newcastle are pretty much injury free! That isn’t quite the end of it though. Mathieu Debuchy is fit but suspended for this game due to picking up his fifth yellow card in the Magpies’ last game against Tottenham.
Injured: Ryan Taylor (knee),
Suspended: Mathieu Debuchy (5 yellows).
As I mentioned earlier, though Newcastle are looking fairly good injury wise for a change, there’s no such luck for Chris Hughton, though winger Anthony Pilkington should be fit and available for selection after recoering from a hamstring problem.
Injured: Elliot Bennett (knee), Alexander Tettey (ankle), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (toe), Mark Bunn (ankle),
What the managers have been saying…
Alan Pardew’s pre-match press conference.
Chris Hughton looks forward to the game in the Norwich City boot room.