Team news: Norwich City down to the bare bones for FA Cup replay at Southampton
PUBLISHED: 16:32 17 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:32 17 January 2017
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Norwich City manager Alex Neil has a host of injury problems to contend with at Southampton in the FA Cup tomorrow, when he will give precedence to Saturday’s league clash with Wolves when making his team selection.
Although Neil stopped short of revealing what his team will be for the third round replay at St Mary’s, he made it clear he is down to the bare bones for the tie.
Central midfield and left-back are the key concerns, with Jonny Howson’s calf injury picked up during the 2-1 loss at Rotherham in the Championship on Saturday ruling him out of FA Cup action and Martin Olsson completing his move to Swansea.
Louis Thompson is also not yet fit enough to return from the pelvis injury which has kept him out for three months and, along with Howson, is unlikely to be able to face Wolves either.
“He’s not trained properly with the players, he’s not touched the ball,” Neil said of Thompson. “He’s doing conditioning because he’s been out for a significant amount of time and he’s been very limited in what he’s been able to do.”
With Graham Dorrans out for a couple of months with a knee injury and Youssouf Mulumbu away with DR Congo for the African Cup on Nations, that leaves Alex Tettey as the only fit senior defensive midfielder.
However, with the Norway international one yellow card away from a two-match ban, Neil is unlikely to risk the 30-year-old turning that situation into a full-blown crisis in the league.
“Graham Dorrans is out, Youssouf Mulumbu is away, Louis Thompson is not prepared yet, Alex Tettey is one booking away from a suspension, Steven Whittaker’s got a tight hamstring,” Neil explained.
“So all in all we’re not in good shape at the moment in terms of injuries, which is not good.
“Nelson Oliveira’s suspended for three games, so obviously we’ve got a bit of work to do in putting a squad together.”
Young central midfielders Ray Grant and Ben Godfrey will travel with the squad, although James Maddison cannot play due to his loan to Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen earlier this season.
“They’re in the squad,” Neil said of Grant and Godfrey, who were left out of yesterday’s under-23s game, a 2-2 draw with Fulham at Colney.
“James Maddison cannot travel because his registration is in Scotland and he was not here for the first round of the cup.”
Another young central midfielder who could have come into it is Conor McGrandles but he came off at half-time of City’s under-23s beating Aston Villa 4-3 at Carrow Road last week, with soreness in his shins as he continues to make his way back from a double leg break.
Another who is unavailable is striker Carlton Morris, who scored in that game before limping off in the second half, leaving just Cameron Jerome and Kyle Lafferty as options up front.
That could lead Neil to not risk Jerome ahead of the Wolves clash, saying only with a wry smile: “It’s something I’m looking at. Without you telling me the team and writing it down for me, I can’t say much more.”
The Canaries boss re-emphasised that repairing City’s flailing Championship campaign remains his priority, having slipped eight points adrift of the play-off places following defeat at Rotherham.
That is despite the prize of a televised home clash against Arsenal in the fourth round being up for grabs – also saying that Robbie Brady will be in the squad despite interest from clubs hoping to sign him this month.
“It’s a cup tie, we’ve got an absolutely crucial game at the weekend in the league, and I’ve not shied away from this question before; the league is our main priority, it’s not going to be the cup, that’s as simple as it is,” the Scot made clear.
“At the moment I’m really, really short on midfield players, we really are struggling in that area of the pitch.”