On Tuesday night, table-topping Newcastle United will face Norwich City under the lights at Carrow Road.
Rafael Benitez’s side will be hoping to build upon two consecutive victories, with United following up last week’s home triumph over Derby by winning 1-0 on the road against a tricky Wolves outfit on Saturday evening to gain top spot ahead of Brighton.
Norwich have been in fine form as of late, with Alex Neil’s side shaking off a rotten mid-season slump to climb to within touching distance of a play-off spot. The Canaries are unbeaten in six league games at Carrow Road against the Magpies.
The game is seemingly destined for goals, In the last three league games between these two sides there has been 20 goals scored, an average of a whopping 6.7 goals scored per game, with eight of those coming in Newcastle’s indelible 6-2 thrashing of the Canaries back in October, 2015.
Norwich will be brimming with confidence coming into this fixture after dishing out an impressive 5-1 thrashing to Nottingham Forest at the weekend, and Alex Neil’s side will be hoping to repeat their outstanding performance in order to come out victorious against the Magpies and avenge their devastating 4-3 defeat at St James’ Park earlier in the season.
This week, I asked Joe (a lifelong Norwich City fan) a few questions regarding his side and what to expect on Tuesday night.
Hi Joe, who do you think are your star players are? The players we, Newcastle United, should be looking out for?
Wes Hoolahan, arguably our best player and our longest servant in the current squad, is certainly one that Rafa should look to keep quiet. Our huge dip in form towards the end of last year was largely because of his minor injuries and we’ve looked like a different team since he’s been back, claiming 16 points from a possible 21 in 2017.
Another man to watch is Jonny Howson, a real engine who can really help the team tick over. He brings much needed consistency to Norwich and often shows his quality – proved by his superb volley against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
You are currently flirting with a play-off place. Is that where you think you will realistically end up come the end of the season?
At the start of the season, the undoubted expectation amongst Norwich fans was to bounce straight back up along with Newcastle. On paper, the Magpies probably have the edge on Norwich in having two of the most talented squads in the league.
Obviously, that hasn’t gone to plan and with an absolutely dreadful run of results in October and November, many people called for Alex Neil’s head. The board has stuck with him and we looked to have weathered that storm now, and we go into the game with a renewed confidence.
The aim now is to finish comfortably in the top 6.
So what’s your current opinion on your manager Alex Neil? Is he the man to take you back up to the Premier League?
In my opinion, I like Alex Neil. He has a seemingly abundant amount of confidence in his preparations and game plan. However, he is still young and inexperienced in comparison to his counterpart on Tuesday night.
This unerring confidence has frustrated Norwich fans at times, rarely making any proactive changes during a game or changing from his beloved 4-2-3-1 system. Put it this way – we will tear a team apart one day, and look non-existent in the next.
He’s done it before, and there’s no reason he can’t do it again. Whilst there are mixed opinions on this, the general consensus is that he can still take us forward. I feel that if he was given another chance in the top tier, he will do things a lot differently – starting with the recruitment.
Who/what is your weak link at Norwich City? What can United exploit to beat Norwich?
Whilst there are no weak links in terms of the personnel, ‘winning ugly’ has been the downfall for us on many occasions. This was perfectly exploited in our 2-1 loss away at Rotherham.
If players such as Hayden, Lascelles and Mitrovic get stuck in then we could get in trouble. Also, a long standing weakness for Norwich is out wide. Our ability to defend crosses and corners has been woeful at times, and is something Rafa should certainly exploit.
Which Newcastle players scare you the most? Which are the players that you think will be the biggest threats?
Dwight Gayle’s name still gives me the shudders from our 4-3 loss at St James’s back in September. He absolutely battered us that night. Other players I will be wary of are Matt Richie & Jonjo Shelvey.
I’m sure Newcastle fans would agree that they have played a pivotal part in your promotion push so far this season.
Are there any weak links in our team that you think you can exploit?
I’ve seen Paul Dummett’s name mentioned amongst Toon fans many a time this season – I hope this is an area we can exploit. Also, despite his partnership with Lascelles, I’ve always thought Ciaran Clark has an error in him even from his days at Villa, which could prove interesting considering the fine form of both Nelson Oliveira and Cameron Jerome.
What would you rate Norwich City’s season so far?
I’d give this season a 7/10. Whilst our performances have been relatively solid, our inability to get the result has let us down on more than one occasion.
What’s your score prediction for Tuesday’s game?
I’m expecting a seriously tough game from two in-form sides. Taking off my yellow tinted glasses, I cannot see us claiming all three points. I predict a 1-1 draw.
And finally, predict your starting XI.
Barring any late fitness or injury concerns, I’m expecting an identical line-up to Saturday. Ruddy; Pinto, Martin, Klose, Dijks; Mulumbu, Howson; Jo. Murphy, Pritchard, Hoolahan; Oliveira.
Thank you very much to Joe for answering our questions!
** Do you think Newcastle can hold onto top spot by gunning down the Canaries on Tuesday night? Get in touch with us via our Twitter account @NUFC360 and give us your predictions for the game!**