Carrow Road is the venue for a pivotal encounter between two struggling sides as Norwich City look to move clear of the bottom three with victory at home to bottom of the table Aston Villa.
After the delight of picking up all three points at Manchester United, the hosts showed confidence early on at Tottenham on Boxing Day and came close to opening the scoring early on through Cameron Jerome and debutant Vadis Oujidja-Ofoe, but once they fell behind to a penalty slightly against the run of play the result never in doubt and they ended up on the end of a comprehensive defeat. It is vital that manager Alex Neil can rally his troops and oversee a win that the club so badly needs.
As they look to penetrate the Villa defence, the Canaries will attempt to get Wes Hoolahan involved as often as possible to provide a killer pass for the likes of Jerome, who will surely receive a frosty reception from the visiting supporters as a former Birmingham City player. But if and when the chances come, he and his teammates must produce the goods. If not, they could find themselves beginning 2016 in the bottom three.
That fate is already certain to befall Villa, and if they do not start collecting wins soon they will be condemned to the Championship sooner rather than later despite the best efforts of manager Remi Garde, who has at least instigated a rise in performance levels. They have now achieved four draws since the Frenchman took over and they have threatened to end their long wait for a victory, but the 10 wins that Garde is targeting for survival still looks a million miles away at present.
Against West Ham United on Boxing Day they played reasonably well and fought back to earn a point which was the very least they deserved, with Jordan Ayew again finding the net albeit from the penalty spot. How he performs will again be important in deciding the result here, but this could be more of a game for the aerial prowess of Rudy Gestede, especially as Norwich have had considerable problems in dealing with set-pieces throughout this season.
Andre Wisdom may return for Norwich after recovering from a hamstring problem, and Gary O’Neil could be back after being rested for the game at Tottenham.
Aston Villa may have Micah Richards after a four-game absence, but are without midfielder Carlos Sanchez because of a hamstring injury.
Last Meeting: In September 2013, Paul Lambert returned to Norwich as Villa manager and claimed his second victory there in the space of five months. He appeared to have suffered a real blow in the first half as Christian Benteke went off with an injury, but his replacement Libor Kozak was the man who came up with the game’s only goal soon after, firing in from close range to condemn the hosts to defeat.
Played for both – Grant Holt: Having helped the club to two successive promotions, Holt continued to score goals aplenty for Norwich in the Premier League and was among the division’s leading marksmen in 2011-12 and added eight more the following season. In 2013-14 he had a loan spell with Villa, where he scored once in 10 matches.
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