Old pals' act on hold
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Daniel Farke has already done Barnsley one favour. He does not intend doing them another one at Carrow Road.
The Norwich City head coach knows Tykes’ rival Valerien Ismael better than anyone else in England after the duo studied together for their Uefa Pro Licence coaching qualification.
Farke revealed on Friday that bond was strong enough for Ismael to tap him up for the inside track prior to accepting the job at Oakwell.
Barnsley arrive in Norfolk this weekend on the back of 10 wins from his opening 15 games in charge, and riding the crest of an unlikely play-off tilt.
“A great guy. For about 12 months I saw more of him than my family on our coaching course. We have a great relationship,” said Farke. “A fantastic player as well with an outstanding CV who played for the national team and for Bayern Munich. He is doing a fantastic job.
"Look at the statistics. Since he took over he is averaging a title winning number of points. There is only one other team with more points - and that is us.
"They are maybe the team of this moment; they are in a red hot form. It will be good to see him.
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“Before he signed for Barnsley he called me and we spoke a bit about the Championship and Barnsley. He also sent me a message before he joined to say he was going to sign and I was happy for him. I know the two games against this opponent will be more difficult because he is a fantastic coach.”
Much might have been made of City leading from the front on Christmas Day, but Farke wants to get back to winning ways after stumbles since against Watford and QPR.
“We want a perfect finish to the first half of the season and a perfect start to 2021,” he said. “We had the feeling we were so dominant against QPR and we should have won that game.
"But you get little setbacks and in this league the momentum can change unbelievably quickly. There is no replacement for wins and three points.
"This is a difficult task. Of course they are not the big favourite to win the title but they will feel they can fight for the top six. They are in great shape. It is a big challenge, but we want to get our momentum back.”
Tim Krul’s pending return after his thigh injury was the headline fitness news. The Dutchman will replace the injured Michael McGovern if he suffered no reaction to a final Friday afternoon training session.
Przemyslaw Placheta is also back in the mix this weekend, and a clutch of City’s longer term absentees are targeting involvement next week in the FA Cup third round against Coventry City.
Chief among them Lukas Rupp and Marco Stiepermann, with Bali Mumba (knee) and Onel Hernandez (adductor) poised to step up their returns over coming days.
“Both are on the training pitch, doing some ball work so there is a chance perhaps by the end of next week they are involved in all or parts of team training,” said Farke. “Lukas will be involved in the build up to the FA Cup game and he has a good chance to play in that.
"But for now some individual work to strengthen those hamstring muscles.
“With Marco, we are going to be a bit careful in our prediction because it is a complicated situation with the ear infection he had. But he has been integrated into parts of team training this week.
"Again, some more individual days ahead but we hope he can then be part of the build up for the FA Cup game.”