How will Norwich City line up against Charlton Athletic?

Norwich Head Coach Dean Smith before the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Pa

How will Dean Smith balance his side as they take on Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup third round? - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City head into FA Cup action against Charlton Athletic searching for an improved performance. 

Dean Smith's men went the entirety of December without scoring a single goal or registering a win in the Premier League as Covid infections and injuries left the squad depleted. 

City are now boasting a much healthier group of players, with five or six players returning to training in the last seven days. 

Lukas Rupp will be absent with a hamstring injury as will defender Andrew Omobamidele, who is making slow progress as he continues his recovery from a back problem. 

Christoph Zimmermann was pictured completing some individual work on the pitches of Colney as he steps up his workload after an ankle operation last year.

A balancing act

Smith admitted in his pre-match press conference that striking a balance between those who needed valuable minutes after absences through injury and rotating his squad would prove difficult. 

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For key players like Tim Krul, Grant Hanley, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki, this could represent an opportunity to return ahead of two Premier League games against West Ham United and Everton later this week. 

There could also be a chance for Kosovan international Milot Rashica, who has returned to full team training after a lengthy injury absence. The 25-year-old could return for this cup clash against the Addicks. 

The FA Cup provides a chance for Smith to shuffle his pack, but given the performances against Arsenal and Crystal Palace in the festive period, perhaps the City boss will be keener to welcome back some of his frontline options. 

But for players like Kieran Dowell, Josh Sargent or Christos Tzolis, this game may provide an opportunity to open their account and gain some confidence. 

Confidence booster?

There is no denying it, this fixture is somewhat of a no win for Norwich. 

A victory is expected given the gulf in quality between the two sides, with Charlton ranking two divisions lower than the Canaries. But the FA Cup has a knack of throwing up surprises, just ask Newcastle United or Reading. 

Given the defeats over the festive period, there is an expectation of improvement from travelling supporters, who have been frustrated by their performances of late. 

With no goal since November 30, this is undeniably a chance to inject some much-needed confidence back into their play. 

A goal for players like Sargent or Adam Idah, who netted a hat-trick against Preston North End in this competition back in 2020, would be useful given their respective struggles in front of goal this season. 

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Our predicted XI for Norwich City's FA Cup encounter against Charlton Athletic. - Credit: Archant

Norwich City predicted XI: Krul; Byram, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; Sorensen, Lees-Melou; Tzolis, Dowell, Sargent; Idah

Subs: Gunn, Kabak, Aarons, Gilmour, McLean, Cantwell, Placheta, Rashica, Pukki