Ben Gibson’s back injury means he’ll miss City’s game at Birmingham City on Tuesday, but Daniel Farke delivered an otherwise clean bill of health at his press conference on Monday afternoon.
“All the players who were available for the last game are available for tomorrow,” Farke said, “we will have to play without Ben Gibson, he’s still struggling with some back problems. It’s not a major issue; it has improved a little bit from yesterday to today but not enough to have him in the squad.”
It was down to Christoph Zimmermann to fill Gibson’s boots, and while the latter’s injury was worrying, the boss revealed he always had faith in Zimmermann: “We can always trust Christoph. I knew that he would be there with a top performance, he was out for a while, but he looked unbelievably sharp in training and I was always convinced that he would [play well].”
Farke also gave updates on the fitness of Marco Stiepermann, who played for the under-23s last Friday having recovered from a rare virus, Orjan Nyland, who’s yet to appear in a matchday squad due to injury, and Sebastian Soto, who limped off last Tuesday in a development squad game.
“[Nyland] is close to be back in the mix, he was already there in small parts of team training,” he said, “With Sebastian he had some muscle problems, he was out for a few days but right now back to training with the under-23s, I think he will be in the mix for the game on Friday. For Marco Stiepermann it was good and he handled the load, it was nearly seventy minutes, quite well. We have decided to give him another week with the under-23s because with our schedule we are hardly working with a proper group on the training pitch at the moment and he needs a bit more load.”
Despite the Canaries’ ascent to the top of the table, leading the chasing pack by seven points, the German kept his feet on the ground, affirming that the play-offs are the first objective before he focuses on automatic promotion: “We are there with 64 points, this is really really good, but we know in order to be safe in the play-offs we need 80 points. Once we have 80 points, then we try to achieve even more. In this league the momentum can change that quickly, so we know we have to stay focused.”
On the back of Emi Buendia’s latest selection in the Championship team of the week, his third in a row since returning from suspension, Farke believes the Argentinian has learned from his latest sending off, but doesn’t want him to lose his edge: “He’s always self-critical and self-reflecting,” the boss said, “to be honest, its fine margins so I don’t want him to change his game. He needs to play emotional, he needs to play with aggressiveness, he’s also there with many winnings of the ball in the opponent’s half and this is one of his strengths. I’m totally pleased with his attitude, even before the red card.”
Farke also commented on the peculiar nature of many of the away dressing rooms his side are now faced with due to Covid-secure protocols, admitting some of the facilities provided are “hard to accept” but defending the makeshift changing room at St. Andrews, having visited Coventry last week. “It’s a bit strange,” he said, “but no complaints about St. Andrews. Sometimes you find it a bit difficult when you’re in a sports hall and it’s colder than outside [referencing Millwall’s temporary setup] and you spend lots of time there. With respect, some clubs are trying to get the focus and concentration away from the game, but this is nothing that should affect us. We don’t need any posh dressing rooms.”
Sunday marks a year since the last time Carrow Road was full, and the City boss reiterated just how much fans mean to the game in his press conference: “Football is not the same game without the supporters, this is why we do this sport, to make the supporters happy. There is no better sport to bring people together. We all can’t wait to have our supporters back in.”