For many, tomorrow’s trip down the King’s Road is ‘Mission Impossible’. Even for the hardest of Canary hearts, Chris Hughton’s men face at best ‘Mission Improbable’ as they look to stop the Chelsea bandwagon in its tracks.
Or at least force it into a bump in the road as Roberto di Matteo’s European Champions continue to set the pace at home and abroad.
Top of the Premier League and top of their Champions League group following Tuesday night’s 4-0 away win against over Nordsjaelland, this weekend then can welcome back new star turn Eden Hazard as they seek their sixth win out of seven Premier League games.
For the Canaries, the return of centre-half Sabastien Bassong can not come soon enough following last weekend’s 5-2 home defeat by a rampant Liverpool side.
The impressive Cameroonian was a rock upon which the 1-1 away draw at Tottenham was built. City will need to repeat that performance – and then some – if they are to defy seemingly every odds and return to Norfolk was even a point for their troubles.
Boss Hughton knows what awaits and the challenge that lies ahead as he seeks an immediate response to last weekend’s second, five-goal mauling of the season.
With Arsenal next up at Carrow Road, it would calm a few early frayed nerves if Norwich at least made the reigning European Champions work for any victory; much in the manner that Newcastle had to for their 1-0 success – a victory helped by Bassong’s early exit.
“I felt we made basic errors against Liverpool,” he told the club’s official website, ahead of this weekend’s huge test.
“And you can’t afford a team like that and a player like Luis Suarez those opportunities because there’s every chance you’ll get punished.
“But that was then and we’ll learn. You have to bounce back, put it behind you, and you have to be able to look for some positives, and the positives were that we had two strikers that scored goals. We’ve had a good weeks’ training now to put that behind us.”
Team-wise and should Bassong shrug off his hamstring troubles, he will walk back into the heart of that Canary defence. The City chief will also be keen to hear how far Anthony Pilkington’s back has progressed in terms of a return, though the bigger question will be up front and who he pairs with who – or rather whether goes for a pair at all.
Grant Holt and Steve Morison were, at least, both in the goals last Saturday as the Canary skipper replaced Simeon Jackson at the break. Whether Hughton will head for Stamford Bridge with two up top and two from Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey left to hold the fort against Frank Lampard and Co is the dilemma.
Hughton’s hopes of keeping all eyes focussed on the football have, however, been hit by the on-going row between ex-boss Paul Lambert and the Canary board over the manner of his exit to Aston Villa.
Today the air was thick with further accusation after club chairman Alan Bowkett revealed to a fans forum last night that the Scot was seeking up to £2 million in compensation for a breach of contract and unfair dismissal claim.
The Villa boss wasn’t slow to voice his ‘disappointment’ that dirty laundry was being aired.
“I’m extremely disappointed that senior officials at Norwich have made comments in relation to myself,” Lambert said, with the League Managers Association now embroiled in an increasingly unseemly scrap.
“The LMA are acting on my behalf. They supported me at the time and still are. What Norwich haven’t made public is that they are suing me. It is disrespectful and wrong to that tribunal for me to comment any more.
“That’s the way I’m going to leave it. My main concern is Aston Villa. Am I concerned Norwich fans are only hearing one side of the story? In a word, ‘yes’.”