Norwich City take on Tottenham Hotspur at Carrow Road tonight in what looks like a very tough assignment for the Canaries.
Hopefully, the scars of the Liverpool game will have healed sufficiently for us to give a good account of ourselves. Every game is going to be important now and despite the calibre of opposition, every home game especially is an opportunity for points.
The reverse fixture at White Hart Lane on Boxing Day was a bit of an eye opener, coming as it did after the win at Old Trafford. Spurs showed that day what a very good side they and despite the fact Norwich were well in the game early on, eventually the class told and we were dispatched 3-0.
Since then of course, we have been busy recruiting and there lies the optimism with which I write.
Gary O`Neil is the only definite absentee as he serves the last game of his three match ban, while Alex Tettey should have recovered from the illness that kept him out of the Liverpool game. Timm Klose is set to make his debut in the centre of a leaky defence while Patrick Bamford could also be involved. Rumours of a sickness bug in the squad were corroborated by Alex Neil on Monday, so fingers crossed it isn`t too bad.
Spurs have no new injury worries and Dele Alli will return after being rested for the FA Cup win over Colchester.
Alex Neil: ‘Our home form has been good and we want to make sure we get back to winning ways.
‘I don’t see why Tottenham can’t be considered title contenders. They’re one of the best sides we’ve played.’
Mauricio Pochettino: ‘We know Norwich is a team that had 10 days to prepare for our game, but our mentality is good, we are strong and we need to compete.
‘We analysed the last few games from Norwich and they are very difficult to play.’
Norwich have only beaten Spurs Once in seven Premier League meetings at Carrow Road (D2, L4)
Norwich have lost their last three Premier League games but have only lost one of their last six home games (4-5 against Liverpool)
Spurs haven`t lost an away Premier League game since the opening match of this season (W5, D5) and haven`t failed to score on their travels since
Norwich have only failed to score once in their 11 Premier League games this season, in the 0-1 defeat by West Brom
Spurs have only conceded 10 goals in their 11 away League matches this season
Only Sunderland have conceded more goals (46) than City`s 43 in the Premier League, this season
The stats don`t make for pretty reading do they? I`m trying to temper that by the prospect of our new £9m central defender, who is just waiting to shore things up for us. At least I hope so, anyway. At the other end of the field, the arrival of Naismith has definitely improved our cutting edge. Patrick Bamford is another option although he seems likely to have to wait for his chance after the promising combination of Naismith and Mbokani against Liverpool.
Spurs have top class players all over the pitch and are genuine title contenders in the early part of the new year. Dele Alli has been a revelation and has progressed way faster than most observers could`ve expected. He was the string puller at White hart Lane on Boxing Day and will have to be nullified, perhaps by the return of Alex Tettey, who hopefully can do a better job of it than he did last time.
Assuming Klose plays, he will have the job of dealing with Harry Kane, a baptism of fire if ever there was one. Much will depend on how quickly he can adapt to the Premier League and get up to speed – ideally he needs to hit the ground running.
A tough test for sure, but at home and with a bucket of new signings, as ever I`m optimistic.