What a difference a week can make. For the first time this season City have taken points from consecutive games – a deserved three points at Goodison and a draw at home to Arsenal, a game in which they probably deserved all three points.
With a change of schedule this week, the games are coming thick and fast and so this week’s column will be more of a preview to the crucial relegation six-pointer at St. Mary’s on Wednesday night.
There are several parallels between Norwich and Southampton at this moment in time. Both teams have picked up four points from their last two games, both teams picked up a point against Arsenal and arguably both should have won.
Both the Saints and Canaries have picked up three points against relegation rivals, beating Watford and Everton, respectively.
Yet, despite the optimism of recent weeks, both teams find themselves in the relegation zone after a largely disappointing start to the season, sprinkled with the odd good result. Saints beating Brighton and Sheffield United, and drawing with United and Wolves.
Whereas Norwich have drawn with Bournemouth and beaten Newcastle and current Premier League champions, Manchester City.
It’s not only the recent form of both clubs that parallels can be drawn between, but there are also several recognisable faces in the Southampton camp.
Ex-Canary Nathan Redmond hasn’t been in the red-hot form he was when Head Coach Ralph Hassenhuttl first joined Southampton – almost a year ago to the day – but nonetheless will hope to line up against his former team come Wednesday evening.
Ryan Bertrand is another familiar face for City fans, having spent a year on loan at Carrow Road back in 2008-09 season.
Angus Gunn appeared to be Hasenhuttl’s number one at the start of the season but has since dropped down the pecking order with Alex McCarthy the preferred option in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, Fraser Forster who was so pivotal for City during the League One season is contracted by Southampton but finds himself on loan at Celtic. In terms of staff, both Dave Watson (goalkeeper coach) and Craig Fleming are on the payroll at Saints these days.
For me, the clash on Wednesday is one between two clubs that find themselves in a very similar situation at this stage in the season. Clubs that try and go about their business in the right way and have so far struggled to string together a serious patch of form.
The match provides the perfect opportunity to do just that, a result would mean three positive results in a row for either team.
The pressure will be slightly greater in the Southampton camp, with the match being at St. Mary’s, but make no mistake this is a huge game and presents a chance for one team to lead the charge in terms of getting themselves out of the relegation zone, especially when you consider the fixtures Everton face in the coming weeks.
Norwich will have plenty to deal with – the pace and trickery of Saints’ wingers will be a test for both Max Aarons and – you would assume – Sam Byram.
Danny Ings has seven goals so far this season and will need to be tracked at all times by both Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann.
City will need to be careful conceding fouls around the box, with dead-ball specialist James Ward-Prowse on the scene; if given the chance he will provide a stern test for Tim Krul, as we saw at the weekend when he won the game for Southampton with a freekick just outside the box.
At the other end of the pitch, the Saints can be got at. No team in the Premier League has conceded more goals although there is, of course, the 9-0 loss against Leicester which heavily influences that statistic, but nonetheless Pukki will fancy his chances.
If Onel Hernandez can cover the amount of ground he did on Sunday with the ball at his feet Norwich could really trouble Saints on the counter, but it will be interesting to see if City’s game plan relies as heavily on counter-attacks as it did against Arsenal.
With tough Christmas schedules just around the corner, both Norwich and Southampton will be desperate for three points. That alone should provide enough spark to ignite what is an incredibly important game at the foot of the Premier League table.