Norwich City are fighting to keep their increasingly bleak chance of Premier League survival alive, and they know that even a win at home to Watford on Wednesday evening might not be enough to save them.
The current scenario sees the Canaries four points behind 17th-placed Sunderland with just two games remaining, which means that they must win both to have any hope of making an unlikely escape. Sam Allardyce’s side are in action at the same time against Everton, and if they pick up three points they will be safe and in doing so will condemn Norwich to an instant return to the Championship regardless of the final scoreline here.
It is a far from ideal situation to be in for a side which has struggled for most of the season, especially since the turn of the year as they have come out on top in just two of their last 16 league matches. The lack of a regular goalscorer has hit the club hard, a point emphasised by the failure to Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani to convert reasonable opportunities against Manchester United at the weekend.
That was a game they lost to a defensive error, which has been another common problem for manager Alex Neil to contend with, and as a result of that the optimism seems to have faded away from Carrow Road. It will be a tense evening here with supporters resigned to the worst, but the least they can hope for is a determined and courageous performance.
At the beginning of the season, many expected Watford to be in the position that their opponents are in, but in truth they have never at any point been at risk of being sucked into a relegation scrap. Yet despite that much of the talk around them still seems to centre on the long-term future of manager Quique Flores, which is surprising considering the extent to which he has exceeded expectations.
The Spaniard will have been rueful on the touchline as he watched his team go down to defeat at Liverpool on Sunday in a match in which they had their fair share of scoring chances, mostly falling to Odion Ighalo. The striker just has not been able to rediscover his form of before Christmas, so a goal here just like the one he managed against Norwich back in December would be most welcome.
Jonathan Howson will miss the final two games for Norwich along with Alexander Tettey, Timm Klose and Andre Wisdom.
The visitors will be unable to call upon midfielders Valon Behrami and Etienne Capoue, while Joel Ekstrand will not play until next season despite returning to training.