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Saturday, November 3, 2012
A measure of Norwich City’s recent upturn in fortunes is that the prospect of grappling with Stoke seems a far less daunting proposition than it appeared only a matter of weeks ago.
City’s latest success over a strong Tottenham outfit in midweek underlined Chris Hughton has a squad growing in confidence and stature.
City could and should have won at Aston Villa last weekend; that they didn’t owed as much to Brad Guzan’s heroics as it did Norwich’s failure to turn their dominance into goals.
Stoke will be no less resolute at the back with the likes of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross more than a match aerially for Grant Holt.
Peter Crouch is adept on the floor as well as the air. Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner had their problems with Christian Benteke at times, but the City duo you would suspect will be better briefed to nullify Crouch.
Charlie Adam will also need to be policed by Alex Tettey, Bradley Johnson, Jonny Howson or which ever pair of defensive midfielders Chris Hughton deploys in tandem.
The Norwich boss suddenly has genuine options again at his disposal. Steven Whittaker appears composed at full-back, Robert Snodgrass and Andrew Surman are capable of pushing Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett and Steve Morison turned in his most effective shift of the season against Tottenham’s quality defence.
But as so often during City’s recent renaissance, Wes Hoolahan is likely to hold the key. One hopes the expected Carrow Road presence again of his international boss, Giovanni Trapattoni, has the same desired effect as Hoolahan’s masterclass against Arsenal. It is hardly a coincidence that Hoolahan’s stellar form has sparked a collective improvement.
• Norwich City 2, Stoke City 1