Norwich City travel to Southampton tonight in a 3rd round FA Cup replay with the odds seemingly stacked against them.
Alex Neil has a pretty difficult situation in terms of injuries and suspensions and has talked about struggling to get a squad together.
Neil’s biggest challenge would seem to be in central midfield and after the injury that Jonny Howson suffered at Rotherham, City are down to just one fit senior midfielder in the form of Alex Tettey.
Tettey though, is on 9 bookings for the season and one more before the cut off date in March, will see an automatic two match ban triggered. Neil seems unlikely to risk the Norwegian international after reiterating that his main focus is on the league, with City entertaining Paul Lambert’s Wolves on Saturday.
Youssouf Mulumbu is still away on African Cup of nations duty and Graham Dorrans is still injured, as is Louis Thompson. That means that City will have to look at youngsters like Ray Grant and Ben Godfrey, who Alex Neil confirmed will be in the squad when he spoke to the EDP
James Maddison’s registration ‘is in Scotland’ said Neil, which sounds a bit odd, so he can’t play either. Conor McGrandles might be involved but he came off injured last week in the U23 win over Aston Villa.
Up front, Carlton Morris is injured leaving Cameron Jerome and Kyle Lafferty as Neil’s only available strikers, after Nelson Oliveira got himself sent off at Rotherham on Saturday.
This is a big week for Alex Neil. Having lost at Rotherham and, to my mind, highly unlikely to beat the Saints, City then face Wolves and Paul Lambert at the weekend.
The chants of ‘Neil Out’ have already started (at Rotherham) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Barclay sing Lambert’s name, during the game on Saturday.
If he loses that match as well then who knows what sort of mood the Canary nation will be in afterwards? You can be sure that the board will still have their heads in the Sand though.
Neil had a similar situation in the run up to the Derby game a couple of weeks ago but his side pulled off a terrific performance on that day to put the Rams to the sword. Can they do it again? Have they downed tools? Are they just rubbish?
First though, there’s the small matter of Southampton at St. Mary’s.
Southampton will be without Steven Davis who missed the defeat at Burnley with a knock, Soufiane Boufal (knee) and Jose Fonte, who is still unavailable after asking for a transfer.
What sort of team City will face is anyone’s guess but it’s likely to be stronger than the visitor’s and no doubt Nathan Redmond will be involved somewhere along the way.
The Saints dominated possession in the first game but City dug in and managed to grab that last gasp draw via the head of Steven Naismith. The unlikely scorer of the first goal that day, Steven Whittaker has a tight hamstring and could well miss out, so Robbie Brady will probably play at left back, assuming Neil was telling the truth about not caring if he’s Cup tied or not.
I’m expecting a defeat but if Neil does have to play some youngsters then it will be a great experience for them and they will give it their all.
However, get beaten here and all eyes will be on Lambert and Wolves.