Return of fans and key players to increase intensity for City

NCFC at The Walks

Norwich City players, from right. Grant Hanley, Kenny McLean and Ben Gibson are working their way back from injury - Credit: Ian Burt

The return of supporters and some key players will see Norwich City’s preparations for the Premier League move through the gears during the next fortnight. 

That’s what the Canaries’ players were doing on Saturday, as they took to the test track at the Hethel headquarters of shirt sponsor Lotus, taking some of the local motoring company’s sports cars for a spin. 

The team bonding continued with several City players spotted enjoying a bit of karaoke at a Thorpe St Andrew restaurant on Saturday evening, following a third successive friendly victory as Huddersfield were beaten 2-0 at Colney on Friday. 

With three weeks of intense fitness work already in the bank, the intensity of the friendly action is likely to crank up in the days ahead as well, with further Championship opposition ahead as the EFL teams prepare to start league action on the weekend of August 6-8. 

Mark Robins’ hard-working Coventry side will give the Canaries a workout tomorrow night (6pm), at the Technique Stadium, the home of Chesterfield. 

Although that game is behind closed doors, City are believed to be basing themselves at a hotel in Yorkshire for a few days as another game in the area follows on Saturday, against Sheffield United (3pm). 

Bramall Lane will welcome home and away supporters, although it’s not been revealed how many. The Blades have said they are only opening the John Street Stand, which has around 8,000 seats including the corner in-fill, but that they could open up more areas if there is enough demand for tickets. 

Former Fulham and Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic has succeeded Chris Wilder following the club’s implosion to a miserable Premier League relegation but is yet to complete any significant transfer business, with John Lundstram joining Rangers on a free and fringe players leaving. Arsenal have reportedly had two bids for keeper Aaron Ramsdale turned down. 

The Canaries will be broadcasting both games on a live stream on their official website, before welcoming fans back to Carrow Road on Tuesday for the visit of League One side Gillingham (8pm). 

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Around half of the stadium has been opened but it’s believed more areas could be put on sale if required. 

The preparations then conclude against a top-flight rival with a trip to Newcastle on Saturday, August 7. Details of fan attendance is yet to be announced for the St James’ Park friendly but the Magpies took 3,000 fans to Doncaster at the weekend so it seems likely that City fans will again have the chance to travel. 

So far, wins over King’s Lynn – in front of around 1,600 spectators - Lincoln and Huddersfield have seen new boys Milot Rashica, Pierre Lees-Melou, Billy Gilmour and Angus Gunn all feature. 

Billy GilmourKing's Lynn Town v Norwich

Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour missed City's last friendly with a knock - Credit: Ian Burt

The only players to have featured during every minute of all three games are centre-backs Christoph Zimmermann and Andrew Omobamidele. 

How long that reliance on the duo continues will be of particular interest as City close on the opening day of Premier League battle against Liverpool on Saturday, August 14. 

Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson are both back in training following injury but will need to get some significant game time in the tank to be in contention to start against the Reds. 

Dimitris Giannoulis is also yet to be seen due to a minor hamstring injury and fellow full-back Sam Byram’s recovery from his long-term absence has also been disrupted, which has seen winger Przemek Placheta used as a left-back during the last two matches. 

Gilmour missed the win over Huddersfield with a minor issue but the Chelsea loanee isn’t expected to be missing for long and Scotland team-mate Kenny McLean is hoping to return to the midfield mix soon after the knee injury which kept him out of the Euros.

Gunn and Jacob Sorensen also missed that game due to having to self-isolate following positive Covid-19 tests, so it remains to be seen if either will be able to feature in this week’s games. 

Tai Fleming and Adam Idah chase for the ball
King's Lynn Town v Norwich

Adam Idah is the Canaries' joint top scorer in pre-season so far - Credit: Ian Burt

Six goals and just one conceded, at King’s Lynn, sees Kieran Dowell and Adam Idah leading the way as top scorers in pre-season so far, with a goal apiece for Teemu Pukki and Lees-Melou. 

Pukki and Tim Krul returned to action on Friday after a belated start to pre-season following their Euro 2020 duties and Canaries fans will be searching that little bit more closely for Premier League clues among Daniel Farke’s approach to the final four friendlies. 

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