Iwan Roberts: Swansea City versus Norwich City is a mouth-watering clash
I for one can’t wait for tomorrow afternoon’s clash between two of the form teams in the Premier League.
After last weekend’s victory, the Canaries are now unbeaten in eight Premier League games, their best run in the top flight since 1993, while the impressive away victory at the Emirates for Swansea means they have now won three of their last four games and are unbeaten in their last six.
I, like many Canary fans, will be making the long six-hour journey over the Severn Bridge in great anticipation of the game.
The two sides were tipped for relegation at the start of the season, with many footballing people and Press alike saying that both teams would struggle this season because of the so-called “second season syndrome”, added to the fact that both clubs had had turbulent summers with the loss of their respective managers.
If you take the latter into account, then maybe they were right to think that it would be a season of hardships for the Swans and the Canaries.
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However, both clubs have proved the doubters wrong so far. Swansea sit in seventh position three points behind Chelsea, while Norwich are in a comfortable 12th, seven points above the drop zone.
I was at the Emirates last Saturday and I have to say it was probably the best away performance I’ve seen for many a year. Michael Laudrup has come in and taken to the league like a duck to water.
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He was a great player, and it’s not always the case that great players then go on to become great managers, but in my opinion he’s well on his way to becoming just that. After spells at Brondby, Getafe, Spartak Moscow, and Mallorca, he found his way to South West Wales in the summer.
It was when he was managing Getafe and Mallorca in La Liga that the likes of Michu, Chico Flores, and Pablo Hernandez caught his eye, and he didn’t think twice before bringing all three to Swansea City.
Each has done brilliantly, but Michu in particular has been exceptional and if the lads are to get anything from tomorrow’s game they will have to keep the Spaniard quiet.
His brace against the Gunners constituted his ninth and 10th goal respectively in 15 Premier League games. He has to be the buy of the season for just �2m.
He’s got good movement, good upper body strength, is very strong in the air and, as we’ve all seen, he’s extremely cool and composed in front of goal when given the opportunity.
Swansea are more direct under Laudrup, they put the ball into the opposition’s box far quicker now than they did under Brendan Rogers, hence they’ve scored more goals this season.
They love counter- attacking as they have bags of pace in the team with the likes of Routledge, Dyer, and Hernandez playing just behind Michu. But as we all know, the Canaries are very resilient and hard to beat under Chris Hughton, and if they can carry on in the same vein defensively tomorrow then I’m sure they can frustrate Swansea and come away with some valuable away points once again.
It was a very good win last Sunday against Sunderland, and if ever there was a game of two halves then this was it.
Norwich dominated the first half, scoring twice in the first 37 minutes to establish a comfortable lead. The second goal in particular was fantastic. If Barcelona had scored that goal it would be shown time and time again on TV.
It was a great advert of how to pass and move efficiently, every man always making themself available for the man on the ball. After 28 consecutive passes, the ball found its way to Anthony Pilkington, and the way he kept his cool to beat the defender and calmly slot the ball past Simon Mingolet in the Sunderland goal was the icing on the cake. It was a fantastic finish to a truly brilliant goal, one that the lads didn’t get the credit for once again.
Sunderland came back in the second half buoyed by a goal just before the break, but not for the first time this season the lads dug deep and defended very well as a team, coming away with another vital three points.
There is going to be some atmosphere at Carrow Road on Tuesday night when Paul Lambert brings his struggling Aston Villa side here to face the Canaries in the quarter-final of the Capital One Cup.
Quarter-finals are always big games, but this one has the added spice with it being Paul’s first return to the club he left in the summer.
I know the two clubs met a few weeks ago at Villa Park in a 1-1 draw, but the winners of this game will only be two games away from reaching Wembley on February 24.
There won’t be an empty seat in the house on Tuesday and, as I’ve said, there will be a red-hot atmosphere.
On current form, regardless of what happens tomorrow, Norwich City will be firm favourites to reach the two legged semi-final stage.