Norwich City-Aston Villa Preview
Tensions will be high Sunday when Aston Villa host Norwich City in a crunch relegation clash at Villa Park.
The two clubs have identical records at 7-7-13 and are four points clear of the drop zone, leaving them very much in the middle of the relegation scrap. Many at Norwich remain disappointed about the way that manager Paul Lambert left the club to join Villa last season, which will add to the drama of the match, but Villa defender Ashley Westwood insists it will not be a distraction for his team.
"Every game is now massive between now and the end of the season and the same for the teams around us," said Westwood. "They're all big games, but for us, hopefully we can just play our game and not worry about the other things.
"It's nothing to do with us really, it's just Norwich at the end of the day. Unless it's Birmingham or West Brom, where it's a big game for the fans, there's no rivalry. They're Norwich, they're a million miles away from us in the country so it's just another game for us."
Villa have failed to score in 326 minutes and currently are enduring their second scoreless streak of at least three matches.
Chris Hughton's Norwich City ended a dismal run of form with a shock 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. That win saw the Canaries find the back of the net for only the third time in seven league games, but Hughton insists his strikers will come good to pull the club away from the bottom three.
"We're due a game where we make life a little bit more comfortable for ourselves," said the likable Norwich boss. "One of these days we just need to get that second goal to alleviate the pressure on the team.
"We are conscious of the fact we are not scoring enough goals. Certainly confidence comes into play and a level of composure and maybe even a touch of good fortune. We are buoyed by the fact we are creating chances, but we need to put a higher percentage away. There is nobody working harder than myself and the coaches to remedy that. There might have been a period in the season when we were guilty of not creating enough clear-cut chances; I don't believe that is the case now and I feel it is something that can turn on any given moment."
Aston Villa have injury doubts over Westwood (hip), Ryan Bertrand (illness) and Chris Herd (hamstring), while Charles N'Zogbia (calf) and Libor Kozak (broken leg) are out. Norwich have doubts over Leroy Fer (hamstring) and Ryan Bennett (hip), while Jonas Gutierrez (calf), Michael Turner and Elliott Bennett (knee) are still missing.
Lambert's team ran out 1-0 winners when these teams met at Carrow Road in September. Robert Snodgrass missed a penalty before substitute Kozak scored the winner at the other end. There were a combined 29 attempts on goal in the match, but only six were on target.