'It's not a huge dip' - Stoke boss prepared for Norwich fightback
- Credit: PA
Michael O'Neill has described Norwich City as 'the best team' they've faced this season and is expecting to face a side motivated to respond to their setback in the Championship.
Similarly to the Canaries, Stoke have found goals hard to come by and have won one game in 11 attempts. They arrive at Carrow Road without their star performer Tyrese Campbell due to a long-term knee injury.
O'Neill is boosted by the return of Nick Powell and James Chester, whilst long-serving defender Ryan Shawcross was missing from last weeks matchday squad as he edges closer to a move to David Beckham's American franchise Inter Miami.
Daniel Farke's side are hoping to rectify their offensive struggles on Saturday and welcome creator in chief Emi Buendia back from suspension. Despite their blip, the former Northern Ireland boss isn't expecting to face a Norwich side lacking confidence.
"I think it will be as tough as ever. They've had a great season. Obviously, they would have been one of the favourites to go back up again and have been at the top for a long time.
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"You're always going to have a dip in this league and they've had two draws and a defeat, it's not a huge dip really. They will be keen to get back to winning ways, so it won't make the task any easier for us.
"We haven't played a team that I feel are better than Norwich this season," O'Neill told the media at his pre-match press conference.
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Stoke currently ninth in the table, six points behind Bournemouth in the play-off positions. O'Neill is hoping to end their wretched run of form that has seen them fail to record a win in eight matches.
Despite their respective goal-scoring difficulties, these sides did feature in a high-scoring affair at the Bet365 Stadium back in November, a night that saw Buendia sent off and Tim Krul limp out with a thigh strain as the Canaries won 3-2.
O'Neill believes that game was decided by the quality of the Canaries' play rather than his side's performances.
"If we look at the game at home, we felt we didn't start the game well but ultimately we were punished by two bits of real quality in the first half. We hit the bar ourselves and had to deal with an injury to Steven Fletcher as well.
"We have to anticipate that Norwich will be on the front foot and be ready to deal with that, but we have to be brave enough to play ourselves. That's something that we have. Whilst we've been disappointed with some results, we have been pleased with a lot of aspects in our performances."