The big selection decisions facing City ahead of crucial Watford clash
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Dean Smith has several key decisions to make as Norwich City travel to Watford in a crucial encounter at the bottom of the Premier League table.
The Canaries travel to Vicarage Road knowing a win would take them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
They will be without first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul who misses the fixture with a shoulder injury. Angus Gunn looks likely to stand in and will be hoping for better defensive protection than he got over the festive period.
Mathias Normann, Lukas Rupp and Billy Gilmour are still on the recovery trail, with the FA Cup fourth round fixture against Wolves in early February targetted as a potential return date for those injured.
City bounce into this crunch clash with confidence after a 2-1 win over Everton last weekend.
Stick or twist?
Smith will be weighing up whether to stick with the 4-4-2 that proved successful in City's victory at the weekend or opt for a more cautious approach given the importance of this game.
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With Milot Rashica, Josh Sargent, Teemu Pukki and, perhaps most noticeably, Adam Idah adding a much-needed attacking edge to their phases of play, the Canaries ended a goal drought that lasted nine hours.
But with Kenny McLean returning, Smith could be tempted to revert back to the 4-3-3 system that he favoured in the early days of his reign, particularly given Watford's preference to deploy that formation.
Whether Smith would want to break up the strike partnership of Pukki and Idah is another point given it yielded goals at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Given Norwich's improved attacking offering against Everton, it would be a big decision to opt to shift system and personnel after a win.
Return of the Mack
McLean's return does allow Norwich to be a bit more tactically flexible in this encounter and presents Smith the chance to add an extra body to midfield.
City's switch to a 4-4-2 formation was born due to absences in their midfield engineroom, with one of the strikers tasked with dropping in to provide support.
McLean is a senior player in City's squad and Smith has placed an onus on his more experienced professionals to drive the level of consistency within their performances.
After a Covid related absence, can McLean immediately return to the starting XI, particularly given how well Jacob Sorensen and Pierre Lees-Melou played against Everton.
If Smith does opt for continuity over pragmatism, then in McLean he has a streetwise option on the bench who could inject some experience should City find themselves protecting a lead.
Predicted XI (4-4-2): Gunn; Aarons, Hanley (c), Gibson, Williams; Sargent, Sorensen, Lees-Melou, Rashica; Idah, Pukki.
Subs: McGovern, Byram, Giannoulis, Kabak, McLean, Dowell, Placheta, Cantwell, Tzolis
- Keep an eye on our social channels from 7pm and join our Canaries correspondents Connor Southwell and Paddy Davitt from Vicarage Road for the team news