Norwich City welcome Chelsea to Carrow Road today in what should prove to be a very interesting encounter, televised live on Sky Sports at 12.30pm. Andre Villas-Boas’ Blues ran out 3-1 victors when the two met at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, and although their recent form hasn’t been terrible, there is a lot of room for improvement – they’ve lost to Aston Villa and drawn with Wigan and Wolves in their past six games.
So perhaps Paul Lambert’s Canaries can capitalise on this far from spectacular run. Norwich have been very solid on home soil, but have also won their past two fixtures on the road – against QPR and West Brom respectively. They currently sit 11 places off the relegation zone – the exact same distance between Chelsea and the top spot. However, the more pessimistic of Canaries fans may be concerned that Blackpool had the same points total at this point in the season, and it didn’t do them much good. Add to this the fact that Fernando Torres is a ticking time bomb – he will start scoring soon, getting closer and closer, and hitting the bar in Chelsea’s last match (which ultimately led to a tap in for Frank Lampard). He will be hoping to capitalise on a defence incapable of keeping a clean sheet – the Canaries conceded in every game thus far – a new Premier League record.
Norwich City: Ritchie de Lait has been sent back to parent club Manchester United due to a string of injuries, and James Vaughan is out but nearing recovery. Declan Rudd is also out, so Jed Steer will likely occupy the substitutes’ bench. Jonny Howson is rumoured to be close to sealing a deal from Leeds, but even if he had signed in time he wouldn’t be fit to play.
Chelsea: Gary Cahill has officially signed and may start. Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are at the African Nations and John Obi Mikel is injured. Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Essien are both fit.
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; Naughton, Whitbread, Ayala, R Martin; Surman, Hoolahan, Johnson, Pilkington: Morison, Jackson.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Essien, Meireles; Ramires, Torres, Mata.
This one will be close. Norwich performed very well at the Bridge and will be confident with their growing reputation as this season’s surprise package (along with newly promoted Swansea). They could well get a point out of this one, but I’ll go with a 2-1 win to the visitors.
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