Sunderland-Norwich City Preview
While Carrow Road has not quite been a fortress Norwich City have at least turned their home into a bulwark, one they hope can shield them against raiders from the north when Sunderland arrive on Saturday seeking Premier League points.
Norwich (7-8-15) are unbeaten in five consecutive home matches, with two wins and three draws. The Canaries conceded just three goals in that run and accumulated nine points.
With upcoming fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United to close out the season, Norwich boss Chris Hughton knows his side need to pick up points now if they are to preserve their Premier League status.
Sunderland (6-7-14) occupy the last relegation place and are four points adrift of 15th place Norwich with three games in hand so the significance of the occasion is not lost on Hughton.
"There is no doubt that the fact it’s against a team around us makes it a bigger game," Hughton told his club’s official club website. "One because we need to the points ourselves, and it’s points you don’t want Sunderland to get too.
"We haven’t conceded that many goals at Carrow Road, but what we’ve got to be able to do is be positive enough to make sure that we can score the goals that we need to win."
Sunderland’s 4-1 loss at Arsenal in their last away match ended a run of six straight road league matches unbeaten, with three wins and three draws.
They had lost five of their first six away matches this season but lie behind only Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the current away form table.
The Black Cats endured a frustrating afternoon at the Stadium of Light last weekend when they were held to a scoreless draw by an obdurate Crystal Palace.
Defender Wes Brown believes a win at Carrow Road would cast those dropped points at home in a new light.
"They’re at home and will be looking to win the game, but we want to do the same and we’re definitely not going there for a point," Brown told his club’s official club website. "We’re going there looking to win and that’s what we’ve been focusing on all week.
"Four points from the two games (Palace and Norwich) would be a good return. If we play as we can then we’re more than capable of getting points."
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet was dealt a blow with the news that striker Steven Fletcher will be missing on Saturday after picking up a foot injury in the draw with Palace. Long-term injury Keiren Westwood (shoulder) is also out.
Norwich defender Michael Turner (hamstring) returned to training this week but Saturday’s game comes too soon for a return to match action, while winger Jonas Gutierrez (calf) and midfielder Leroy Fer (hamstring) are also out.
This season’s reverse league fixture ended in a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light in December, with Brown seeing red in the 93rd minute for a reckless challenge on Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.
The sides have drawn their last two meetings, both at the Stadium of Light. Norwich were the last team to record a victory in this fixture with a 2-1 the corresponding fixture in December 2012 through goals from Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington. Sunderland responded through Craig Gardner but his goal was not enough to rescue a point.