STARTING XIs: Buendia returns as Canaries make three changes for Stoke battle

Maikel Kieftenbeld of Millwall and Dimitris Giannoulis of Norwich in action during the Sky Bet Champ

Recent signing Dimitris Giannoulis returns to Norwich City's starting line-up against Stoke - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Emi Buendia returns to Norwich City's starting XI after suspension this afternoon, as one of three changes made by Daniel Farke for a battle with play-off chasing Stoke City.

Recent signing Dimitris Giannoulis also returns at left-back in place of Jacob Sorensen, having been rested during the 2-0 loss at Swansea last Friday.

Buendia replaces Przemek Placheta and there's no room for the Poland international on the bench either, with Mario Vrancic also coming back into attacking midfield and Lukas Rupp dropping to the bench, as Kenny McLean moves deeper into central midfield.

Left-back Xavi Quintilla is back on the bench as well after a six-game absence due to a battle with Covid-19, with youngster Bali Mumba not in the squad.

The Canaries' first objective is to bring an end to a four-game goal drought which has contributed to them losing top spot to Brentford after almost three months at the summit - with top scorer Teemu Pukki only managing two penalties in his last eight league games.

City have the opportunity to reclaim the Championship lead today, with Brentford not in action until they host Barnsley on Sunday afternoon and third-placed Swansea's game at Sheffield Wednesday postponed.

Farke's team won a dramatic game 3-2 at Stoke in November, going 3-0 up but seeing Tim Krul limp off late in the first half to begin a two-month injury absence and then Buendia sent off for a needless second yellow card, leading to a chaotic final 20 minutes as the Potters fought back.

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Striker Jordan Hugill (hamstring) and midfielder Marco Stiepermann (virus) could return to full training next week but full-back Sam Byram is still in individual training after almost a year out following two hamstring operations.

Michael McGovern is set to miss the majority of the remainder of the season after hamstring surgery at the start of the year and recent signing Orjan Nyland, brought in to compete with number one keeper Tim Krul, is still getting up to full speed in training.

Norwich City v Stoke: All you need to know

Stoke arrive in Norfolk without a win in eight league matches, although six of those have been draws, keeping Michael O'Neill's team ninth and still in with a chance of finishing in the top six.

The Potters are unbeaten in nine away games, although just two of those have been wins. Only Millwall (14) have drawn more games than Stoke (12) in the Championship so far this season.

The visitors have Norfolk-born Canaries academy product Angus Gunn in goal, who made 51 appearances for his former club while on loan from Manchester City during 2017-18.

That earned a big-money move to Southampton but he signed for Stoke on loan in October. After four games an ankle injury emerged and Gunn missed two months but has returned during the last two matches, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw at Reading last weekend.

MORE: Gunn on Farke, Wes, Krul and whether he would return to City

The other former City player in their ranks is Wales centre-forward Sam Vokes on the bench, who has been on the fringes of O'Neill's team this season, scoring once in 19 appearances.

Vokes scored once in four games for Norwich during April 2011 while on loan from Wolves, helping Paul Lambert's squad to seal Championship promotion.

The Potters make two changes. Nick Powell returns after two games out with a hamstring injury, replacing James McClean in attacking midfield, and James Chester replaced Danny Batth in central defence after missing the draw at Reading with a knock.

On-loan Sheffield United full-back Rhys Norrington-Davies is suspended due to a recent a red card and talented forward Tyrese Campbell remains a long-term injury victim as he recovers from a knee injury. 

NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Vrancic, Cantwell; Pukki. Subs: Barden (GK), Zimmermann, Quintilla, Sorensen, Tettey, Rupp, Dowell, Hernandez, Idah 

STOKE (4-3-3): Gunn; Collins, Souttar, Chester, Fox; Allen, Mikel (C), Clucas; Clarke, Fletcher, Powell. Subs: Bursik (GK), Batth, Smith, McClean, Brown, Cousins, Thompson, Vokes, Matondo 

REFEREE: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)

- You can follow all the updates, analysis and reaction in our Matchday Live blog

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