Valencia-based Blades have most international worries of City’s promotion rivals
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s promotion rivals have plenty of international call-ups to monitor as well during the current break in Championship action, with Sheffield United away for warm weather training in Spain.
The second-placed Blades, four points adrift of City, have eight players away with their countries but manager Chris Wilder has taken the rest of his squad to Valencia.
Key players including on-loan Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson (England U21s), midfielder John Fleck (Scotland) and four players in the Republic of Ireland squad are all away.
Influential midfielder Oli Norwood has not been selected by Northern Ireland though, as he needs a break due to ‘personal issues’, according to his national manager Michael O’Neill.
Goal-scorer Chris Basham let slip that a trip to Valencia was approaching, following the Blades’ vital 1-0 win at Leeds which lifted them to second in the table on Saturday.
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“The gaffer is taking us somewhere special afterwards,” Basham told the Sheffield Star. “The internationals will be going away with their countries but we’re off somewhere nice as a group and taking the training kit.”
Wilder’s team return to action with a home game against ply-off chasing Bristol City on Saturday, March 30 (3pm), when Norwich go to fifth-placed Middlesbrough for a televised game at the Riverside Stadium (5.30pm).
The Canaries have seven first team players away with their national teams, with Max Aarons the first to see action as he represented the England U19s on Wednesday.
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Some of the Norwich players have squeezed in a short break in warmer climes though, no doubt with fitness regimes to keep them sharp before head coach Daniel Farke starts putting them through their paces again in full training.
Leeds, five points behind City in third, have five senior players on national duty as they prepare for a home game against relegation battling Millwall.
That would have been six but centre-back Pontus Jansson had to pull out of the Sweden squad due to the knee injury which forced him off during the defeat to Sheffield United.
West Brom, who are fourth but 11 points adrift of Norwich, only have three senior players away due to defender Ahmed Hegazi being left out of Egypt squad to rest an ankle problem.
With players including Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales), Chris Brunt (Northern Ireland) and Canaries legend Wes Hoolahan (Rep Ireland) all retired from international action, that is perhaps a reflection of the average age of their squad.
Baggies winger Oliver Burke is in the Scotland squad, but is currently on loan at Celtic, with James Morrison and Matt Phillips both left out of Alex McLeish’s squad – which does feature City midfielder Kenny McLean.
Albion host local rivals Birmingham City on Friday, March 29, with caretaker James Shan due to still be in charge after winning both games since Darren Moore’s exit.
Meanwhile, Boro boss Tony Pulis had his team back in training today to start preparations for the Norwich game, after three successive defeats left his team fifth but just four points better off than 11th-placed Nottingham Forest.
• Norwich City – 7
Finland: Teemu Pukki
Northern Ireland: Jamal Lewis, Michael McGovern
Scotland: Kenny McLean
Switzerland: Timm Klose
England youth: Ben Godfrey (U20), Max Aarons (U19)
• Sheffield United – 8
Republic of Ireland: John Egan, Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick, Scott Hogan
Scotland: John Fleck
Northern Ireland: Conor Washington
England U21: Dean Henderson, Kieran Dowell
• Leeds United – 5
Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Stuart Dallas
Wales: Tyler Roberts
Macedonia: Ezgjan Alioski
Poland: Mateusz Klich
• West Brom – 3
Norway: Stefan Johansen
England youth: Sam Field (U20), Rekeem Harper (U19)
• Middlesbrough – 6
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph
Northern Ireland: Paddy McNair, George Saville
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Mo Besic
England youth: Dael Fry (U21), Marcus Tavernier (U20)