After a very mixed performance in our opening day defeat to Arsenal, this game promises to tell us where this Steve Bruce team is really at in the early stages of the new season.
We did a decent job in the first half against Arsenal, containing them well and pressing effectively, but we totally ran out of steam in the second half, looking tired, tactically all over the shop and toothless in the final third.
Norwich will pose an attacking threat, but they’ll give you chances at the other end, meaning the likes of Almiron and Joelinton *should* get much more joy in this one.
They’ll be well up for it, with it being their first Premier League game at Carrow Road for over 3 years, so we must be switched on at the back and much more efficient in attack if we want to come away with all three points.
It’s still very early days, but with both clubs being due to play top 4 teams in two of our next three games after this one, the game should feature two sides desperate to get their first win of the season on the board.
With Allan Saint-Maximin looking likely to miss out with a tight hamstring, it looks very likely that Bruce sticks with a 3-5-2 and the exact team that started at St James’ Park last Sunday.
Many had hoped he’d go with a 3-4-3 and start Almiron and Saint-Maximin either side of Joelinton – an attack that could seriously trouble a leaky-looking Norwich defence – but I’d be shocked if the Frenchman is risked. With that in mind, Almiron and Joelinton must gain more support in attack – and could do with playing closer together too, with Almiron’s tendency to drop deep and drift often leaving the Brazilian too isolated to make an impact last Sunday.
Shelvey seems to be OK after being forced off against Arsenal, so I’d expect him to play in the middle of a midfield trio, with Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden taking up slightly wider roles either side of him. While Hayden did a good job last weekend, hopefully Longstaff can have more of an impact on this game, with him looking a little lost and being surprisingly sloppy at times against the Gunners.
At the back, Ritchie and Manquillo seem likely to continue at wing-back. Jetro Willems and Emil Krafth are both fit and available, but I can’t see either starting – especially when the former played a big part in Arsenal’s winner last time out.
At centre-back I’d be surprised if there were any chances, with Schar, Lascelles and Dummett seeming like our first choice and most well balanced trio until Lejeune returns.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-3) – Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles Dummett – Hayden, Longstaff – Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron (although it looks like Saint-Maximin won’t be fit for this one).
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Daniel Farke’s side:
Teemu Pukki: The Finnish goal machine was the top scorer in the second tier last season, bagging 29 goals and 9 assists in Norwich’s title-winning campaign. Some wondered if he’d struggle to make the step up this season, but he showed no signs of that at Liverpool last weekend, displaying razor sharp movement and a real eye for a goal as he finished emphatically to give the Canaries a consolation goal at Anfield. Schar, Lascelles and Dummett will need to have their wits about them and mark him closely.
Grant Hanley: The former Newcastle United centre-back looks set to start again given the injuries Norwich have in defence. He’ll deal with long balls up to Joelinton all day and night, but he could be in big trouble if we can get Almiron running at him.
Emi Buendia: The Argentinian attacking midfielder is the creative force behind this Norwich team, with some even tipping him for an international call-up if he can continue to impress at Premier League level. He bagged 8 goals and 12 assists form them last season and will be looking to create and cause havoc down their right-hand side. One to watch for Matt Ritchie.
Tim Krul: Another ex-Mag and another player we may get some joy against if we continue with our high press. We did this very well at times against Arsenal and it could come into play once again in this one given how Norwich like to play out from the back. Krul rarely looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, so he may struggle if we give him little room to work with.
Predicted Norwich XI – Krul, Aarons, Godfrey, Hanley, Lewis – McLean, Trybull, Stiepermann, Cantwell, Buendia – Pukki.
Allan Saint-Maximin has been described as a ‘major doubt’ for his after missing training earlier this week with a tight hamstring, but it looks like Jonjo Shelvey will be OK – despite limping off 7 minutes into the second half vs Arsenal.
Elsewhere, Andy Carroll is still ‘at least 4-5 weeks away’ from being match fit according to Steve Bruce, while Dwight Gayle (calf), DeAndre Yedlin (only just returned to training after groin surgery), Christian Atsu (knee) and Florian Lejeune (still recovering from ACL surgery) will all miss out.
For the hosts, summer signing (and former NUFC target if you believe Spanish press) Ibrahim Amadou is being assessed after sitting out their opening day defeat at Anfield.
Centre-back duo Timm Klose (hip) and Christoph Zimmermann (knee) have been ruled out, meaning ex-Mag Grant Hanley looks set to start in attack.
This is a winnable game, but Norwich are no mugs – and they’ll be bang up for it given it’s their first Premier League match back at Carrow Road following promotion.
They look very fluid and a real threat going forward, but, if their defensive display in their 4-1 defeat at Anfield is anything to go by, we should be confident of grabbing a goal or two.
Almiron and Joelinton must play closer together if we’re to carry a consistent threat in the final hard, with the midfield needing to push up and wing-backs push on – something that didn’t really happen against Arsenal last weekend.
I see Norwich scoring – they commit bodies forward and go for it – but I can’t see them keeping a clean sheet either.
I’d like to think we can stand reasonably firm at the back and outscore them at the other end, but we’ll need to be much better going forward and get the balance right between defence and attack to come away with a win.
A high-scoring draw feels likely to me!
Prediction: Norwich 2-2 Newcastle
Howay the lads!