To stick or to twist for Farke in FA Cup trip to the capital?
PUBLISHED: 13:42 04 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:56 04 March 2020
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Norwich City are gunning to make the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 1992, yet Daniel Farke is still presented with a dilemma over his team selection.
In the background, City have 10 Premier League fixtures remaining to complete what City's head coach describes as a "little miracle".
Buoyed after a victory against third-placed Leicester City, the German could be forgiven for wanting to focus on the top-flight campaign.
That said, presentation of this fixture as an unwanted distraction is far from the reality.
With over 9,000 supporters preparing to descend on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the expectations from those will be to field a competitive side.
Admittedly, City don't possess the depth in defensive areas to rotate willingly anyway, but how much of his regular starting XI will be retained for the fifth round clash?
Despite Friday's victory over Leicester City, they remain six points adrift following victories for Watford and West Ham over Liverpool and Southampton respectively.
If City could muster six victories from their final 10 fixtures, they would have 39 points, a total that is close to guaranteeing top-flight survival. Farke played down suggestions he could stomach relegation if City won the FA Cup.
Simply reference Sean Dyche's comments about the competition following City's victory at Turf Moor in the last round. He opted to ensure his side receive the vast amounts of broadcast revenue rather than potentially getting their hands on silverware.
Outside of the elite bubble, the message is clear; the FA Cup is alive and kicking. The Canaries intend to do all they can to win it.
But, given their current predicament, could Farke opt for changes to his starting XI in order to protect his players ahead of Saturday's trip to Bramall Lane?
The omnipotence of the Premier League has ensured that this competition is simplified. No replays. No unwanted weekends.
For City, the respite is wanted even though they conquered the Foxes at Carrow Road on Friday. This time, they won't be heading to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium looking to sample the facilities but to complete a task.
Critics could have pointed towards the self-inflicted wounds that prevented Farke's men from extracting points on their last visitors, but nobody could account for a deflected cross landing into the path of Heung-Min Son to nod into an empty net.
This time, City have the safety net of extra time and penalties plus the benefit of two extra recovery days.
Farke spoke at length about the size of the carrot being dangled in front of his squad's faces. They could become the first City side to reach the last eight of the competition in 28 years.
Barring a "little miracle", City will be resigned to operating at Championship level again next season. This is a single shot at making history and proving the doubters wrong again.
Beyond Alex Tettey and Teemu Pukki, both of whom are major doubts through illness, City should go to north London seeking progression against an injury-plagued Spurs side.
With Christoph Zimmermann sidelined after another set-back, City look set to name the same back five that started against Leicester City. A lack of depth in defensive areas makes that a necessity rather than through choice.
Tettey's potential absence will be a cause of concern for a City side whose centre appears soft without the Norwegian enforcer in their engine room.
Could Kenny McLean operate in a similar fashion or would City's head coach recall Tom Trybull from the shadows?
Mario Vrancic is an honourable mention for a starting berth considering the influence he possessed at Burnley. City could be forced to surrender possession and Farke could opt for a duo who will provide that obdurate streak witnessed of late.
One thing is for certain - Farke won't ring the changes and disrespect the competition. In terms of ranking competitions by importance, naturally City will want to survive.
Unlike other clubs who cannot afford to risk the guarantee of Premier League income, City operate with financial security and can afford to gamble in the FA Cup.
That risk will be calculated, given Farke won't want to see any of his first-team squad sidelined for weeks on end.
Given the scale of supporters set to march on the capital, those expectations mean City must seek to compete as Farke looks to realise the dreams of the Canary nation.