Two games in close proximity, the first one a (narrow) win for City, so why change a winning team? Therefore it’s again to Andy Delf, Don Harrold, Colin Michael and John Scent I turn for their thoughts on City’s return to St Andrew’s.
Lads, you know the drill…
How are the nerves after Saturday’s second half? Never in doubt was it? 😉
Delfie: I didn’t see or hear the game so was spared the tough second half. In a strange way it will keep the team aware of the efforts and standards required to carry on at the top, so could become a good thing to have experienced. Rotherham are a tough team, so to get a win was a great result.
Don: The second half was pretty much expected, I doubt it took Daniel Farke by surprise. On another day (I’m not sure which) Pukki would have had the match ball up his shirt before half-time and everything would’ve been comfortable. But, yes, the second half was attritional and I was glad when it finished.
Colin: The second half on Saturday was a breeze. After palpitations from failing to add to our score after a hatful of first-half chances and other latest scores going reasonably well, I couldn’t take any more so washed the car, (dirtier than Paul Warne’s Millers), resisting temptation to glance at the mobile, opting instead to wait for eldest daughter’s call (she only calls if we win). Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed! The stress is not always good for me, taking it out on the car was a win, win!
John: Maybe not for you, but had I been a smoker like Mr Penney, I may well have even broken the no smoking indoors rule. The game should have been well and truly out of Rotherham’s reach by half-time but our profligacy in front of goal (Stoke excepted) seems to be one of the wonders of this season. Credit to Warney’s boys though; they appear to be rather better than their league position indicates.
How do you see tonight’s return trip to St Andrew’s going? Are we all assuming Karanka will have another go at parking the Blue & White bus?
Delfie: With Pukki, Buendia and Cantwell firing on all cylinders, Karanka could park two buses and I don’t think it would help the Blues. Seriously though, I think we will have too much for Birmingham and if we can get an early breakthrough then another very good win should be on the cards.
Don: Other Norwich fans may be surprised, but the Birmingham game is one we absolutely must win. This is because I have friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers who are Blues fans. The result of this fixture usually means that I can either drink free in local pubs for a while, or I need to consider a loan application to pay for my beer bets.
Colin: If St Andrew’s is not under water, the boys will be looking forward to it I reckon and we will be bursting for goals. I’ve never rated Karanka and his record against us ain’t great. The Blues won away last time out but against 10 men for much of the game. Scott Hogan is a decent goal scorer but they rarely win at home and I reckon they will be most focused on their next two more winnable games. The ref will play a crucial part too; we got nothing much from him last time out – some protection would be welcome
John: One win and only four points from their last five games (and seven wins all season) means that they need points – and quickly. However, given how they set up at Carrow Road so much earlier in the season I don’t think they will be too different. They don’t score many, but given their position, don’t concede too many either. Most of their defeats have only been by the odd goal so another low-scoring contest seems inevitable.
Can we find a route past said bus?
Delfie: Width is the answer. Aaron’s and Gianoulis are key in my opinion. If those two are on it then we can beat the ultra-defensive approach favoured by Karanka.
Don: No one I have spoken to expects anything other than Karanka to be anything other than ultra-defensive. They’re not the quickest of teams, so our full-backs bombing down the flanks may cause problems, and there’s always the blessed trinity of Teemu, Todd and Emi, which is more than a handful for any Championship team. With the speed and power of Onel and Adam on the bench, I think we will find a way through. Birmingham seem to give away penalties, so perhaps our forwards shouldn’t try too hard to keep their balance!
Colin: We will be up against a defensive unit for certain with little or no space in behind but that’s a perfectly legitimate way to approach the game. Perhaps we can invite them on to us in order to create more space but we take chances going forward with quick play, Emi will have to have his wits about him as he’ll be targeted for certain, as will Todd. No red cards boys!
John: The million-pound question. If we go for a similar starting XI to Saturday’s, there should be enough creativity in there to see us home. A bit of the pressure, given Saturday’s results elsewhere should have been lifted, and given the fixtures this week, it’s a great opportunity to go 10 points clear if only for 24 hours
Any changes needed by Daniel? Given that there’s only one position seemingly up for grabs, who would be your first choice (if everyone was fit and available) at 10, just behind Pukki?
Delfie: Gibson if fit back in (he isn’t – Ed), very tough on Zimmerman I know but we have to play our best players. I wouldn’t leave Vrancic out. Dowell needs to start showing when he comes on. It might be a half-time swap if we are ahead to give him some meaningful minutes.
Don: I guess the starting line up will be pretty much the same as it was -although if Ben Gibson is 100 per cent I think he’ll be back in (see above – Ed). Farke didn’t make any substitutions until very late on Saturday so I guess he’s happy with form and fitness. The no 10 question is difficult. Dowell hasn’t done enough to get a start when he’s come on. Vrancic has been okay but doesn’t quite look the part and Steiperdude is just getting fit – he would be my first choice and has the bonus of being born to score goals! But for now, I think Vrancic will start.
Colin: As for DF’s selection, Hugill and Idah are good bench options if we need extra muscle and a slightly different approach. I love Mario but would also like to see Dowell given a run to find match fitness and when faced with a parked bus, having Onel available to run at them and create some chaos could provide us a way through. I expect the same X1 as Saturday, it’s Daniel’s way and it works.
John: Has Vrancic been unlucky, or is he the weakest link in what is becoming a really well-oiled and efficient machine? On paper he seems the best option, but maybe it’s time to give him a rest and play Dowell there, or bring in Rupp and push McLean further forward.
Delfie: Well I predicted 3-0 against Rotherham and that was hopelessly wrong, so heart says 3-1, and head says 2-0 to us.
Don: I hate tipping us to win, but 3-1 feels good to me.
Colin: 2-1 to us with a Pukki pen for the winner!
John: If we score early, we could easily run away with it as I don’t think a point is enough for Birmingham… but there’s this nagging little gremlin that won’t go away and tells me it’s a 1-1 draw.
Thanks again, lads. The beers are on me… after June 21.
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