One of this weekend’s most intriguing Championship matches will see two promotion hopefuls go head-to-head as Norwich City welcome Swansea City to Carrow Road.
Just a single point separates two of the division’s most in-form teams heading into the game, with both sides looking to maintain their respective unbeaten runs.
Norwich have a host of injury worries ahead of Saturday’s match, with Daniel Farke confirming that Todd Cantwell, Lukas Rupp and Przemysław Płacheta have not been able to train since Tuesday.
Additionally, Ben Gibson, Jacob Sorensen and Marco Stiepermann have all been struggling with tightness issues. Left-back Xavi Quintilla remains out with a muscular injury.
Young Swansea defender Ben Cabango missed their game against Brentford in midweek after developing a problem with his hamstring in the warm-up, but there is a chance that he could return to face the Canaries.
George Byers will definitely miss out with a groin injury, while fellow midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White is also ruled out due to a problem with his foot.
Norwich: Krul; Mumba, Hanley, Gibson, Aarons; Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Stiepermann, Vrancic; Pukki.
Swansea: Woodman; Naughton, Bennett, Guehi; Roberts, Fulton, Smith, Bidwell; Dhanda; Ayew, Lowe.
Both sides come into this match in excellent form, hence why they are competing at the top end of the table at such an early stage of the season.
Norwich are currently on a six-game unbeaten run and sit in third position in the division as a result. Last Saturday, they produced arguably their best performance of the campaign so far to beat Bristol City 3-1 at Ashton Gate, before drawing 0-0 with Millwall in midweek.
Meanwhile, second-placed Swansea have not lost any of their last five matches. Back-to-back home victories over Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers were followed up with a 1-1 draw at Brentford on Tuesday evening. The Swans have suffered only one league defeat so far this term, which was inflicted by Huddersfield Town.
Ones to watch
After impressing many with his performances in the Premier League last season, it was thought that a top-flight club might have taken a chance on Emi Buendia in the summer following Norwich’s relegation. However, a move did not materialise, and he is set to stay in Norfolk until January at least.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder missed the Canaries’ first three league matches but has featured in every game since and has already chipped in with one goal and three assists.
Buendia had a particularly enjoyable time against Swansea two seasons ago; he found the net in both games between the two clubs, with his powerful left-footed finish securing an important 1-0 victory for Norwich in March 2019. Daniel Farke will no doubt be hopeful that the Argentine can produce another stellar display against the Swans this weekend.
Centre-back Ryan Bennett played for the Canaries from 2012 to 2017, helping them earn promotion to the Premier League in 2015. He made a total of 119 appearances across a period of five years, but never quite established himself as a regular in City’s defence.
Now, after a successful few seasons at Wolverhampton Wanderers and a short loan spell with Leicester City last term, the former England under-21 international will return to Carrow Road with his new club, Swansea.
Bennett is likely to be selected alongside former Norwich loanee Kyle Naughton in the Swans’ backline as they face the difficult task of trying to keep striker Teemu Pukki quiet. Central midfielder Korey Smith, who is a product of the Canaries’ academy, should also start on Saturday afternoon.
The Canaries managed to do the double over Swansea when these two sides were in the same division for the 2018/19 season. At the Liberty Stadium, Norwich were comfortable 4-1 victors, but the fixture in East Anglia later in the campaign was a much tighter affair and was settled by Buendia’s aforementioned strike.
It has been almost 12 years since the Swans last tasted victory at Carrow Road. Goals from Jason Scotland, Darren Pratley and Ferrie Bodde earned them a 3-2 away win in November 2008, back when Roberto Martinez was in charge of the South Wales club.
How to watch
The game will kick off at 3pm on Saturday November 7 and is not on TV, but it is available to watch on either ‘iFollow Norwich’ or ‘Swans TV Live’, with a match pass costing £10.
What the managers have said
Speaking ahead of the game, Norwich head coach Farke questioned the reasoning for why some countries are playing as many as three international matches in the upcoming two weeks.
“We are pretty strict in our processes and protocols,” Farke stated. “It's difficult at the moment to make the right decisions. We're still allowed to do our job but to play without supporters is difficult from a financial point of view.
“If I'm honest, we have to be careful we don't head in the wrong direction. The workload around the world has been reduced but for the players on international duty, the workload increases. Some players are having to play three games next week, also in high-risk areas.
“There are lots of friendlies. The nations want to earn some money but it's hard to accept. The players are very fit but I'm not sure all these games is good for the quality of the game.”
Forward Andre Ayew has netted five league goals already this term, and Swansea boss Steve Cooper was eager to compliment his player in the lead-up to this game.
He said: "Andre’s a top player in the league and has played a level above. He’s showing that at the moment and he’s very much a team player.
“We’re seeing him in good form, but he’ll be the first to tell you, it’s still the early stages of the season. I know his idea and my idea is to be in good form for all of the season, or certainly large parts of it.
“We’re enjoying his goals, but it’s about what’s next. Andre’s great, he has been since I walked through the door. He’s a good lad and a good professional. He delivers when it counts."