City will welcome Coventry to Carrow Road tomorrow in what could end up being a major fixture in the race for the play-offs.
The Canaries head into the game off the back of two straight away defeats against Leeds United in the league and Premier League title challengers Liverpool in the FA Cup, but before that, David Wagner’s side showed glimpses of promise in a home victory over West Brom.
Norwich have been dealt a major blow ahead of the game as they will be without star man Jonathan Rowe due to an injury sustained during the defeat to Leeds.
Centre half Danny Batth is also still unavailable after picking up a hamstring injury in the replay win over Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup a couple of weeks ago but Wagner did reveal that both Rowe and Batth are expected to return to training next week.
The clash may also mark the debut of January loan signing Sydney van Hooijdonk. The 23-year-old arrived on deadline day from Italian side Bologna on a loan deal until the end of the season, with the club holding an option to make the deal permanent in the summer.
It is unknown if the Dutchman will feature tomorrow. It may end up being a case of involving him in the squad but not necessarily seeing him feature on the pitch, or it could just be too quick of a turnaround after completing his switch to Norfolk and it will be a watching brief.
Van Hooijdonk steps into the void left by Adam Idah, who departed the club on deadline day; the Irishman joining reigning Scottish champions Celtic on a loan deal until the end of the season.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact van Hooijdonk will have this season, as he finds himself third choice in the pecking order behind both Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes, with Sargent, especially, proving how vital he is to this side in recent weeks.
But despite initially coming in as the number three striker, van Hooijdonk arrives with real pedigree, boasting an excellent goal record, particularly in the Eredivisie where he burst onto the scene with NAC Breda, which earned him a big move to Italian giants Bologna.
He then returned to the Netherlands on loan with SC Heerenveen where he managed to net 26 times in 54 appearances – a very promising return for a striker who would have been around 21 at the time.
Coventry travel to Carrow Road in a positive vein of form, with their last defeat coming against Ipswich on December 2. Since then the Sky Blues have been on a 12-game unbeaten run.
Mark Robins’ side currently sit sixth in the table, four places and three points ahead of Norwich who sit tenth. Much like the Canaries, Coventry were active on deadline day, with club legend Kyle McFadzean departing on a free transfer to join Championship rivals Blackburn Rovers.
Cov also showed their intent for the future, acquiring Peterborough star Ephron Mason-Clark on a permanent deal, while allowing him to remain with Posh for the remainder of the season to help continue their promotion charge.
Despite Coventry’s good recent run, they have recently struggled against City, and haven’t won against them in 14 years, with Norwich winning six of the last nine meetings.
That said, if Coventry are to finally break the cycle, what better occasion now than this weekend after Wagner labeled them as ‘not the sexiest’ club in the world during his pre-match press conference. As you can imagine, it went down as well with Coventry fans as a lead balloon.
The comment will have undoubtedly also ruffled a few feathers in the Coventry camp and has certainly added some extra fuel to their fire in their preparation for the fixture.
Norwich will head into the game slightly buoyed in an attacking sense after the Liverpool cup defeat. Scoring two goals at Anfield is something that only Fulham have been able to achieve this season, with one of City’s goals being a cracker from Borja Sainz off the bench. Here’s hoping that he can step up in the absence of Rowe and deliver the goods again tomorrow.
It feels make or break with this Norwich side. Calling them streaky would be an understatement.
If they were to lose against Coventry, the play-offs then begin to look an uphill task. We just have to hope Wagner can extract the same performance level from the team we saw in the win against West Brom.