City boss challenges Stiepermann
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Marco Stiepermann is fighting fit and ready to reclaim his Championship crown, in the view of his head coach Daniel Farke.
The attacking midfielder turned back the clock with a vibrant display, capped by a superb assist for Teemu Pukki, in the 3-1 weekend win at Bristol City.
Farke feels Stiepermann is over recent injury issues and a bit-part role in the Premier League relegation season – but he needs to keep performing in a hot area of his squad ahead of Tuesday’s Millwall test at Carrow Road.
“When Marco is physically in a good shape he can be outstanding but he has to maintain this,” said the City boss. “We have other options, different players, Todd Cantwell, Mario Vrancic, maybe to play two strikers, but if Marco is on this level he is a great option.
“It is not that easy to shine in the Premier League. It didn’t work out as he would have liked. For self confidence it is not easy to return to this level and you need a few games back in the Championship. The same with Emi (Buendia).
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“He had nearly 30 appearances in the Premier League.
“Sadly he was not that effective, he missed the early goals and assists and there was competition for his place. He doesn’t need to feel sorry for the past 12 months. What is important now is the future.
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“I back my players but we all have to deliver.”
Stiepermann did that at Ashton Gate with a virtuoso offering.
“When Marco is in a top shape, focused and spot on he can run our game in this position. He is so important to link the play,” said Farke. “He is a perfect fit to Teemu. He can play with his back to goal, keep the ball and he has that physicality. They have an unbelievable understanding. Marco just has to feel the movement from Teemu.
“They know each other that well. He knows when to exactly play the pass, and Teemu also knows without watching that Marco can play those passes. We brought Kieran Dowell in, who was great in pre-season, but is now injured.
“Marco had some back and neck problems and was not able to train fully and didn’t feel great.
“Right now, for the last two weeks he has had some special exercises and treatment and he has been fully in team training for 10 days or so. He proved two years ago why he was deservedly labelled the best number 10 on this level. The challenge is to repeat that.”