Your Norwich City Christmas menu: Muscat memories, Villa revenge, mean Mourinho and Palace (again)
COPYRIGHT ADY KERRY / AK PICTURES
Christmas football – in the midst of all the merriment there’s always a shock or two to be had... CHRIS LAKEY looks ahead at Norwich City’s fixtures, and is brave enough to offer a prediction or two...
Saturday, December 21
Wolves - home (3pm)
Suddenly all the national pundits love Wolves... wonder if that old Canaries terrace song "We only hate Ipswich and Wolves" still applies? Kevin Muscat's leg-breaker on Craig Bellamy, a red card for doing Darren Huckerby, then the play-off semi-final matches of 2002 ensured the dislike festered.
But the golden boys come to Carrow Road unrecognisable from those times: there's a distinct Portuguese influence at Molineux and even all the additional; Europa League matches haven't yet hampered their Premier League task. Wolves are eighth and had gone 11 league game unbeaten before last week's end's home loss to Spurs.
Unlikely we will see ex-Canaries John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett in the starting line-up.
City will be buoyed by a draw at title hopefuls Leicester - but only once this season have they gained points in successive games. Time for that to change. As it's still a few days before Christmas the prediction is a conservative one...
Thursday, December 26
Aston Villa - away (3pm)
Yeh, we all know the stuff about footballers not having a Christmas and all that. But this is the first fixture of the season when strange things happen... and these two teams have already provided one weird result this season. I know City have struggled, but who expected them to lose 5-1 at home to Villa back in October?
No suggestion from these quarters that City will reverse that scoreline, but as long as they haven't still got their Christmas hats on, they will have revenge in mind. Big time. And Villa aren't as chirpy as they were a short while ago: they're only two places and three points ahead of the Canaries having lost their last three league games.
No doubt Jack Grealish will get 'the treatment'. Wesley scored twice at Carrow Road, but his only goal since then was in the midweek Carabao Cup win over Liverpool's youth team.
I may be a little optimistic here, but ...
Saturday, December 28
Tottenham - home (5.30pm)
Will Jose come bearing (late) gifts? Nope...
The Special One has put some of the old swashbuckling Spurs back into his side: he's getting a tune out of Deli Alli and has persuaded Toby Alderwiereld to sign a new deal... remember the time when City were heavily linked with him? Seems like an age ago.
And then there's Harry Kane. Barn door and banjo job during a loan spell here seven years ago, now he's world class. Hands up whoever saw that coming... no, thought not.
Spurs are a bit of a beast, certainly flat track bullies, and I fear this could end in tears.
Wednesday, January 1
Palace - home (5.30pm)
Very familiar New Year's Day opponents. Palace are on a roll - two wins and two draws in their last four.
They're currently ninth in the table and will be optimistic of a good festive return with games against Newcastle (away), West Ham (home) and Southampton (away) before heading to Norfolk. If Palace have done well in that run and my Tottenham prediction is right, then it could be tough for City.
Palace have won on three of their last four visits to Carrow Road (and beat City 2-0 at Selhurst Park in September) and while they don't have Andrew Johnson to win them penalties nowadays, they do have Wilfried Zaha, who needs only the merest excuse to go to ground.
Summary: That's a return of five points from four games. A little generous perhaps, but 'tis the season of goodwill and all that.
Happy Christmas to one an all...