Glenn Roeder's Canaries faces the stiffest test yet of their pre-season schedule this evening as Carrow Road plays host to Premiership Spurs.
In fact, with just Colchester United to come this Saturday before Norwich kick-off their 2008-2009 Championship campaign away at Coventry City in under a fortnight's time, today's sold-out clash will be City's stiffest test. End of; period.
If anyone is going to give them the full, summer runaround this will be the one after Spurs returned from a 14-day training camp in Spain unbeaten and, according to head coach Juande Ramos, are heading to Norfolk in fine fettle.
If half a dozen stars lighter after England's Paul Robinson packed his bags for Blackburn Rovers, Robbie Keane took a one-way ticket to Liverpool and Pascal Chimbonda joined team-mates Teemu Tainio and Younes Kaboul in the latest Roy Keane revolution to grip Wearside.
Defender Anthony Gardner is also out of the door – joining Premiership new-boys Hull City on loan for six months.
To keep the spirits of the Spurs faithful up, Euro2008 star Luke Modric has joined in a ?15.8 million deal from Dynamo Zagreb, while a 19-year-old Mexican called Giovanni dos Santos has also swapped the delights of Barcelona for the rural charms of the Seven Sisters Road.
“After 14 days working very hard in Spain I think the players at this moment are at a level that we are happy with but this is normal and we were also satisfied with the desire they are showing during the games to win and demonstrate their best form,” Juande told the official Spurs website over the weekend as a Darren Bent header gave the North London side a 1-1 draw against Hercules CF.
“I think it was a typical game that you would see during this time of pre season,” Juande added. “The score was not the most important thing to take away from this game – it was to ensure the players are working hard and understanding the methods we have tried to implement on the training pitch.
“I was happy with the performance the players gave. The players have put in some important work during this period in Spain and that has pleased me greatly.”
Roeder was saying much the same ater the Canaries returned from their own, five-day trip to Sweden last week unbeaten.
Tonight's game will give the expectant Carrow Road faithful a first, real look at Roeder's clutch of fresh faces – led, you suspect, by 33-year-old centre-half Dejan Stefanovic who has yet to make his first appearance for the club since his switch from Fulham. Ditto Arturo Lupoli on whose 21-year-old shoulders so many goal-scoring hopes rest.
City supporters might, just, get a glimpse of Celtic centre-half John Kennedy who could yet formalise his six-month switch from Parkhead in time for a wave to the crowd this evening; most will settle for seeing Wes Hoolahan's twinkling feet go to work as te Canaries prepare for a new life without Darren Huckerby.
With both Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell picking up knocks in City's tour opener, in Stefanovic's Swedish absence Roeder gave Sammy Clingan and Fulham youngster Elliott Omozusi a whirl at centre-half with – by all accounts – impressive results. Albeit against a Swedish Second Division side.
Whether the pair could keep Bent and Berbatov under wraps is another question; all of which points to Stefanovic striding onto centre-stage this evening.
A renowned 'leader of men' beloved on the terraces of Fratton Park, it will be interesting to see whether the 33-year-old Serb emerges into the Norfolk sunshine with the captain's armband attached to his sleeve – or whether Mark Fotheringham has that gig for good.
Roeder may also arrive at Carrow Road with transfer news on his hunt for a big, strapping striker – the biggest, remaining piece in his summer jigsaw.
Lupoli, Jamie Cureton and Chrissy Martin remain – for now – Roeder's principal strike threats; all three have one thing in common. They ain't big.
And as the Canaries have long ago learned, big counts for a lot in the Championship.
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