League Cup action could prove very helpful again for Norwich City
The League Cup has been enjoyed by Norwich City in recent years and could well provide a helpful fixture at a very helpful time for Daniel Farke later this month.
The Canaries will travel to League Two side Crawley Town for their second round tie in the week commencing Monday, August 26, following on from a Premier League home clash with Chelsea and prior to a trip to West Ham.
The chief beneficiary of that date being added to the City calendar could well be Christoph Zimmermann. The popular defender signed a new contract in early July, extending his deal until 2023, with the option for a further year.
However, the German had also undergone minor knee surgery, ruling him out for between four and six weeks.
That not only means an individual pre-season schedule for Zimmermann to work on but that going straight into Premier League action - less than three years since he was playing in the fourth tier in Germany - would be a huge ask.
So, all being well, Carabao Cup action could well allow the man who wore the captain's armband for much of City's title success to step up his comeback, either from the start or from the bench.
The following week also brings the opening match of the EFL Trophy group stages for the Canaries' under-21s, starting with a trip to League One side Oxford United on Tuesday, September 3.
That falls during the international break on the first-team front, so could well allow Zimmermann to continue his return to action as one of the two allowed over-age players for the U21s, as one of the category one academies to accept an invite to play in this season's Checkatrade Trophy.
The imposing centre-back is unlikely to be the only City player hoping for game-time though, three matches into the Premier League season.
Timm Klose will hopefully have returned to front-line action before the League Cup fixture but the Switzerland international could also be in need of minutes at centre-back after his hip problem in recent weeks.
Tim Krul has started the campaign with the gloves, so Schalke loanee Ralf Fahrmann is sure to be keen for another opportunity to show what he can offer.
Similarly, at full-back, Sam Byram was signed from West Ham for £750,000 this summer but has Max Aarons ahead of him in the pecking order on the right to start with and it's a similar story on the left for January arrival Philip Heise, who is competing with Jamal Lewis.
Josip Drmic came on in the 83rd minute of Friday's opening-night loss at Liverpool and with Teemu Pukki so well established, will almost certainly be looking for a start.
The final summer signing, defensive midfielder Ibrahaim Amadou, seems highly likely to have seen action by then but the Sevilla loanee may well need more game-time to get up to full speed.
One of the heroes of last season's Championship title triumph, classy midfielder Mario Vrancic, had his pre-season ruined by a calf injury, as did the experienced Alex Tettey.
City's head coach has taken the competition seriously during his first two seasons in England, suffering narrow defeats to higher level opposition in the fourth round on both occasions - 2-1 at Arsenal in front of almost 9,000 away fans in 2017 and 2-1 at Bournemouth last year.
So as much as going one further and reaching the quarter-finals would be progress for the two-time winners, remaining in the competition could also prove helpful - it certainly did in 2018.
The 3-1 win at top-flight Cardiff in the second round last season saw Max Aarons, Emi Buendia and Marco Stiepermann give their hopes of league action significant boosts, and all three went on to become first-choice players.
Also, unlike the Championship, midweek games are not crammed into the schedule. The first midweek league match is due to arrive in early December, when City head to Southampton on a Wednesday night.
The League Cup third round ties are scheduled to be played in the week starting September 23, after the daunting home clash with champions Manchester City and the long trip to Burnley.
Norwich have reached the fourth round in five of the last six seasons, including a disappointing 4-1 home loss to Aston Villa in the quarter-finals in 2012-13 on Chris Hughton's watch.
Given the Canaries haven't enjoyed a cup semi-final since the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland in the FA Cup at Hillsborough in 1992, a League Cup sideshow could well prove a very welcome support act to the main attraction: Premier League survival.
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