STARTING XIs: Vrancic starts for City against QPR
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mario Vrancic returns to Norwich City’s starting XI for this evening’s Carrow Road clash with struggling QPR.
Vrancic replaces Kieran Dowell in the central attacking midfield role, who made his first start in over three months on Saturday.
Lukas Rupp drops out of the squad though and is replaced by young centre-back Andrew Omobamidele on the bench.
The Canaries start the night four points clear at the top of the Championship table and looking to bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Watford on Boxing Day, which was just a second defeat in 17 matches.
Vrancic replaced Dowell in the 67th minute of that game, adding attacking impetus and creating a late chance for top scorer Teemu Pukki.
The 31-year-old has started five of the Canaries' last eight matches and has three goals and two assists to his name from 16 Championship appearances so far this season.
The leaders have a chance to re-establish a comfortable lead at the summit thanks to Watford’s game at Millwall being postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak and the other four teams in the top six playing each other tomorrow night, when Bournemouth go to Brentford and Reading travel to Swansea.
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They remain without goalkeeper Tim Krul (calf), full-backs Sam Byram (hamstring) and Bali Mumba (knee), midfielder Marco Stiepermann (ear infection complications), wingers Przemek Placheta (hamstring) and Onel Hernandez (groin) and striker Adam Idah (knee) - but all seven are hopeful of returning soon.
The injury crisis has eased with the recent return to action of players including Ben Gibson, Xavi Quintilla, Kieran Dowell and Jordan Hugill.
The visitors also make one change, with winger Bright Osayi-Samuel replacing Macauley Bonne in attack, who drops to the bench following a 2-0 home defeat to high-flying Swansea on Saturday.
QPR arrive in Norfolk in desperate need of a win having failed to enjoy victory in any of their last eight matches, scoring just twice in their last six.
Their only major injury absence is midfielder Lukas Amos being out with a serious knee injury, suffered in October and expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season.
The Rs finished 13th at the end of former Brentford, Rangers and Nottingham Forest boss Mark Warburton’s first campaign in charge but sit 19th and four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of tonight’s match.
Norwich have won six and drawn two of their last eight home games, while the visitors have only won one of their 10 away matches so far this season.
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): McGovern; Aarons, Zimmermann, Hanley (C), Sorensen; Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Vrancic, Cantwell; Pukki. Subs: Barden (GK), Gibson, Omobamidele, Quintilla, Tettey, Dowell, Martin, Omotoye, Hugill
QPR (3-4-3): Dieng; Dickie, Cameron (C), Barbet; Kane, Carroll, Ball, Hamalainen; Dykes, Chair, Osayi-Samuel. Subs: Kelly (GK), Masterson, Bonne, Thomas, Willock, Bettache, Adomah, Duke-McKenna, Kelman