City chief weighs up Covid impact ahead of Palace duel

Max Aarons and the rest of Norwich City's backline will have to be on his guard at Crystal Palace

Max Aarons and the rest of Norwich City's backline will have to be wary of Crystal Palace's attacking threat - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Dean Smith would rather be duelling with the absent Patrick Vieira on the touchline at Selhurst Park on Tuesday but from his own Covid experience knows it could offer a marginal gain for Norwich City at Crystal Palace. 

Vieira returned a positive Covid test result on the eve of his side’s 3-0 Boxing Day league defeat to Tottenham and will again be missing for the Canaries’ visit. 

Smith knows what that feels like after sitting out a game at his old club Aston Villa, while his successor Steven Gerrard is another currently isolating. 

Vieira’s assistant, Osian Roberts, will deputise in the home dug out. 

“They will certainly miss Patrick,” said Smith, who replaced Roy Hodgson in the summer. “It will be tough for him. I believe Steven Gerrard has got it and has had to miss a couple of games as well.

"First and foremost I wish anybody who has got the virus a safe and healthy return from it. Mine was just during pre-season, and I was still able remotely to watch training and a pre-season game, but it is frustrating because you are not there on the touchline, and you don’t feel you can influence it in the same way. 

“I have nothing but respect for what Roy Hodgson did at Palace in his time in the Premier League. But Patrick has gone in and you can see an identity shift, if you want to call it that, in terms of Patrick’s ideas on how to play the game and that has produced some big wins already.

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"As coaches, we all have our own ideas on how the game is played.” 

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira misses the game after testing positive for Covid

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira misses the game after testing positive for Covid - Credit: PA

The Frenchman has plotted notable wins over Spurs and Manchester City so far, with Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher catching the eye this season, but Palace have only won one of their last seven ahead of City’s festive visit. 

“They have had some really good performances this season, and I suppose Conor Gallagher has been getting the majority of the headlines,” said Smith. “We have to be ready for that.

"He is a key danger but they also have players like Christian Benteke and (Jordan) Ayew. I know (Wilfried) Zaha is suspended after getting sent off at Spurs, but we have to go with the attitude we need to start winning games, and we only do that if we limit mistakes. 

“They are lacking a few results in recent weeks, a bit like ourselves, so it is a game where both teams will feel they can get the right outcome.” 

Mathias Normann is out until February at the earliest after surgery to address an on going pelvic issue

Mathias Normann is out until February at the earliest after surgery to address an on going pelvic issue - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Smith reported no fresh injury issues after the Boxing Day defeat to Arsenal, and confirmed he would have the same personnel to pick from. The likes of Mathias Normann, Milot Rashica and Grant Hanley remain on the injured list, while Tim Krul is in isolation after testing positive for Covid.  

Kenny McLean was the only Norwich player singled out for praise from his head coach after a heavy Gunners' defeat, but the Scot admits it is actions not words from here on. 

“We need to go out there and show that we really want to be in this league, to fight for every single point from here until the end of the season,” he said. “I can come out and say we miss a number of players, but we’ve got plenty of players that can step in.  

“We’ve got a squad and players coming in who I’m sure  have been waiting for their opportunities, this was what they wanted, chances in the Premier League - and the opportunity is still there, so we need to go and take it.  

“We just looked so easy to play against, we looked soft.  

“It is not a reflection of the manager or Shakey (Craig Shakespeare), or the team that we want to be. We want to be a team that’s hard to beat but we need to show more character. We can’t be looking for excuses.  

“We have to go out there and do better.” 

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