Dean Smith will make his return to Villa Park tomorrow for the first time since his departure from the club last November, as City face Aston Villa.
If Burnley win away at Watford, then defeat for City will mean a record sixth Premier League relegation with four games left to play out before the end of the season.
The Canaries go into this fixture with their tails between their legs after a 3-0 home defeat to Newcastle United last week which left them ten points adrift with just five games left to play. A brace from Joelinton and Bruno Guimarães ensured that the Magpies took all three points.
Villa most recently played out a goalless stalemate against Leicester at the King Power Stadium to extend their winless run in the Premier League to five games. Although they are eight points ahead of 18th, they are still not mathematically safe from the drop and so will be eager to secure their position in the Premier League for the third season in succession.
Newcastle’s visit to Carrow Road saw centre back Ben Gibson dropped to the bench and replaced by Christoph Zimmermann who made his first start since March. City’s visit to Villa Park could see Gibson’s return following his poor performance at Old Trafford two weeks ago, as well as Zimmermann pulling out of first-team training due to a hip injury.
Emi Buendia may well face his former club; he has made 29 Premier League performances this season after signing for Aston Villa from Norwich, scoring twice and assisting on four occasions.
Norwich, who remain bottom of the Premier League, will be without Adam Idah as well as fellow Irishman Andrew Omabamidele as they remain side-lined by long term injuries. Smith has confirmed that midfielder Lukas Rupp will make his return to the squad, however, the Canaries boss also added that Kenny Mclean will need an injection in his toe if he is picked tomorrow afternoon.
Summer signing Josh Sargent is expected to make his return to the squad following six weeks on the side-line. Sargent played a vital role in City’s last win away from home in the league, where his brace contributed to a 3-0 dismantling of Watford on a night riddled with disturbances.
Steven Gerrard will still be without left-back Lucas Digne, midfielder Morgan Sanson and winger Bertrand Traore after they missed out on Villa’s draw at Leicester through injury.
Kourtney Hause will also not feature on Saturday due to his long-term injury.
Norwich City Expected lineup – Krul, Giannoulis, Gibson, Hanley, Byram, McLean, Normann, Rashica, Lees Melou, Dowell, Pukki.
Giannoulis has secured his position at left-back in recent weeks, especially with Williams returning to Manchester United at the end of the season. McLean and Normann seem to have also secured their midfield partnership recently, forcing Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour from the side.
Dowell has performed well in recent weeks, hence his first run of performances in the side this season, however a return for Josh Sargent may put his place in the starting XI at risk.
Smith will most likely line his side up in his recently favoured 4-2-3-1, but a call for Sargent to start up front with Teemu Pukki could change that and see him revert to a 4-4-2 shape.
Pukki has now hit double figures in terms of goals in both the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons in the Premier League, and will no doubt start if fit. He signed a new contract this week that will ensure he remains at the club next season for what will hopefully be a promotion-chasing campaign from the Championship.
Aston Villa Expected lineup – Martinez, Young, Mings, Konsa, Cash, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey, Coutinho, Bailey, Watkins.
Gerrard will most likely attempt to capitalise on City’s weak midfield and will try to do this with his usual midfield three. Despite an injury-riddled season, winger Bailey has started two of the last three league games and will most likely start on Saturday. The firepower of Phillipe Coutinho and Ollie Watkins will put stress on the leakiest defence in the league and, similarly, Danny Ings is an option for Gerrard.
Gerrard will be confident that his side can pick up all three points, with the reverse fixture at Carrow Road in December ending 2-0 to the visitors, however Smith will be looking to take advantage of the lack of confidence in this current Villa side, who have failed to win a home game since 5th March.
It was at Villa Park that the Championship trophy was lifted for City three years ago, and it could be at the same ground that they are sent straight back there for the second time since. Villa would reach the holy 40 points mark with a win, which would all but guarantee a place in the top tier next season.
Controversy off the pitch for Norwich at the moment does not paint a pretty picture for if the Canaries were to lose and be relegated tomorrow.
This fixture is poised to be a tale of Premier League sink or swim, with City potentially clutching at straws for survival.