Hope that City will return to action as Premier League's Covid cases drop

Tim Krul of Norwich applauds the traveling support at the end of the Premier League match at Tottenh

Norwich City number one Tim Krul revealed his positive Covid-19 test on Christmas Day - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

As Premier League cases of Covid-19 begin to drop, there is cautious optimism that Norwich City will be returning to action at Charlton in the FA Cup this weekend. 

Regular testing continues at training grounds so nothing can be taken for granted but it’s understood the Canaries are hopeful they are through the worst of their problems with injuries and illness. 

Having lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace with 10 players unavailable, City’s application for their New Year’s Day trip to Leicester to be postponed was “regrettably agreed” by the Premier League board. 

That has provided the time to return Dean Smith’s squad to some semblance of health, with the head coach due to provide the latest team news at his press conference on Friday ahead of Sunday’s game in east London. 

The Premier League announced on Monday that it had recorded its first week-on-week decrease in positive Covid tests for eight weeks, with 94 new cases among players and staff from 14,250 tests in the seven days up to and including January 2. 

That was a drop from the record high of 104 positive cases from the previous week, one of which was City goalkeeper Tim Krul, who revealed his result on social media on Christmas Day and missed the 5-0 home defeat to Arsenal on Boxing Day as well as the loss at Palace two days later. 

Clubs must continue to abide by the stringent coronavirus protocols in place in the hope of not adding to the 18 top-flight games that were postponed in the past month. 

That takes on added complication when facing lower-level teams in the FA Cup this weekend but clubs at all levels are aware of the need for regular testing as the pandemic approaches two years since its outbreak in the UK. 

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Charlton - in City’s case - host MK Dons in the last 16 of the EFL Trophy tonight so will have at least one fresh round of testing before Sunday’s 2pm kick-off.  

Over 30 festive fixtures were postponed across the EFL, which has matched the Premier League’s efforts to ensure players and staff are vaccinated and have received the booster, amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Two of those games involved Charlton, due to an outbreak in the Addicks' squad, but they returned to action with a 1-0 home defeat to Wycombe in League One on New Year's Day.

Canaries players including Kieran Dowell and Adam Idah were pictured receiving their booster just before Christmas, with officials revealing over 90pc of the squad had received two doses of the vaccine and over 50pc – at that stage – had already received their booster. 

City also had to postpone a trip to West Ham last month and that has been rearranged for next Wednesday night (January 12), three days after the cup clash with the Addicks. The Leicester game is yet to be rearranged.

As well as Krul, City were without Teemu Pukki, Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell at Palace due to unspecified injury or illness but the Leicester game was postponed with just five players available to take part in full training last Thursday. 

It’s believed players including Milot Rashica, Grant Hanley, Andrew Omobamidele and Lukas Rupp could also be back in contention for Sunday after injury absences, although whether they would feature in a game against League One opposition is unclear.

Norwich have an allocation of 3,000 seats at the Valley, with tickets still available as of Tuesday lunchtime after going on general sale earlier in the day, priced at £15 for adults, £5 for over-65s and under-21s, and £1 for under-11s. 

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