Norwich City will be looking to secure consecutive Championship victories for the first team this season as they welcome Birmingham City to Carrow Road tonight (19:45 KO).
The Canaries bounced back from two successive defeats by beating Rotherham United away from home last Saturday, with a 95th-minute Jordan Hugill penalty completing a comeback victory. Birmingham meanwhile sit 16th in the table and suffered their first defeat of the season last Saturday in a home defeat to bottom-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference yesterday, City boss Daniel Farke gave Norwich fans reason to be cheerful by declaring midfielder Todd Cantwell fit to play.
The young playmaker missed the win over Rotherham due to a knock picked up in training, and had previously been dropped from the matchday squad over a lack of focus, following interest from Leeds United in the recent transfer window. Cantwell being brought back into contention will be a relief for many in Norfolk, with the ‘Dereham Deco’ a standout performer in recent seasons.
Oliver Skipp is also fit to play despite feeling the full force of a horrific lunging challenge from Rotherham’s Angus MacDonald last Saturday, which earned the Millers defender a straight red card. However, centre-back Christoph Zimmermann remains out due to a calf problem.
Birmingham have no fresh injury concerns, with Josh McEachran a long-term absentee after suffering an ACL injury last month.
Aitor Karanka may give a first start to new signing Mikel San Jose, following the Spaniard’s move from Athletic Bilbao in the recent transfer window. Australian Riley McGree could be given his first start following his debut appearance from the bench last weekend, and Jonathan Leko will be hoping for his first start since returning from an ACL injury picked up in December.
But with this the second game of three in the space of a week for both sides, changes could well be made by both managers to keep their squads fresh.
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Gibson, Hanley, Quintilla, Skipp, Steipermann, Buendia, Cantwell, Pukki, Hugill.
Birmingham City: Etheridge, Colin, Dean, Friend, Pedersen, San Jose, Clayton, Sanchez, McGree, Bela, Hogan.
Head-to-head and form guide
Norwich and Birmingham have faced each other 70 times since their first meeting in 1963, but the results have been almost perfectly split, with 24 Norwich wins, 23 draw and 23 Birmingham wins.
However, Norwich have won four of the last five meetings, drawing the other, including the most recent match between the two sides in January 2019. Goals from Teemu Pukki, Mario Vrancic and Tom Trybull helped secure a 3-1 victory, pushing the Canaries up to second in their promotion-winning season. Birmingham’s last victory over Norwich came with a comprehensive 3-0 home victory in August 2016, but they have won only once more in their last 13 meetings with Norwich, stretching back to 2005.
Norwich head into this game after a mixed bag of results, sitting 11th in the table having won two, lost two and drive one of their opening five fixtures. Their win at Rotherham last weekend arrested a run of two straight defeats, although they lost both games – against Bournemouth AFC and Derby County – by just one goal.
Birmingham, prior to their defeat to Wednesday, had drawn three of their previous four. They have not won since opening day, where they overcame Brentford 1-0 at St. Andrews. The Blues, whilst failing to score more than one goal in any fixture so far this season, have conceded just three goals in five games.
"They have one of the most experienced line-ups in the league"
Speaking to the club, City boss Farke was full of praise for his opposite number, but stressed that his side were fully aware of the importance of each and every game:
“If I judge our performances, we're first in possession in the league and passing accuracy. It says a lot about our game. We are really good already so what we have to improve is our effectiveness. Birmingham could choose to press us high and surprise us. I'm full of respect for Aitor [Karanka]. He's experienced on this level and his teams are difficult to beat. They have one of the most experienced line-ups in the league.
“These lads know what is important to win points in the Championship because they all have so much experience in so many battles. It will be important to find some solutions in order to open them and create chances.
“When we won the Championship, we had one goal wins and late draws - grinding out results is important. These moments are valuable, so that's why we were delighted with the win [against Rotherham]. I expect another tight and close game, hopefully with another good ending for us.”
How to watch
The game is being shown live on Sky Sports, with coverage starting from 7pm. Season-ticket holders can follow the game on the two clubs’ respective iFollow streaming services.
More details are available here.
Kick-off is at 7:45pm BST.