Latest battle with Sunderland simply has to be won by Norwich City this time
06:30 22 March 2014
Sunderland games have been key for Norwich City in the past but David Freezer believes tomorrow’s is the most important yet.
The importance of Norwich City’s clash with Sunderland cannot be underestimated – it is the biggest yet.
Win, and the Canaries would be seven points clear of Sunderland. Lose, and the Black Cats will be just a point behind City and with three games in hand.
The worst case scenario this weekend could see City just two points off the bottom of the Premier League, should Cardiff City and Fulham win as well.
That looks highly unlikely as both face title-chasing sides, Cardiff hosting Liverpool and Fulham at Manchester City.
However, it highlights the stark reality that Chris Hughton’s side find themselves in and illuminates the importance of beating Sunderland.
Hughton and his team proved last season that they can handle that pressure. Can they now do so again? With just six goals scored in their last nine matches at Carrow Road, City supporters are hardly going into the match brimming with confidence.
But minimal strands of early-season optimism remain, if players, staff and supporters can collectively reach out and grab hold of them. Last season it was a nervy 2-1 home win against Reading which saw the Canaries edge to safety, before a 4-0 thumping of West Brom in their final home game of the season got them over the line.
It is not the first time the club has faced big matches against Sunderland either.
In May 2004 the Canaries knew they would seal the Division One title if they won at the Stadium of Light. They lost 1-0 but were still smiling after other results went their way. In April 1992 City could have reached their first FA Cup final if they had beaten the Black Cats in a semi-final at Hillsbrough, but lost 1-0.
Although City did, of course, get the better of Sunderland in the 1985 Milk Cup final at Wembley – Gordon Chisholm’s own goal giving Norwich a 1-0 win.
So can the current crop of Canaries handle the pressure?
Arguably, the match is the biggest in the history of the club, as defeat could spark a spiral towards relegation.
But then on of course, the home game against West Brom would take on that unwanted mantle two weeks later.
Is that correct when comparing to an FA Cup semi-final and a Wembley final? It may be an answer lacking romance but, for me, there is no argument.
Football has changed and Premier League survival can now be celebrated in the same way as securing a Wembley final.
The riches that City would miss out on – a minimum £60million per season in the Premier League – means the safety of the club’s existence depends on it.
Today is the epitome of a six-pointer for City, now they must do everything in their power to ensure it is in their favour.
Is today’s game the most important against Sunderland yet for City? Or is Premier League survival not as important as a Wembley final?
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