Rashica absence and other decisions facing Dean Smith ahead of Spurs

Christos Tzolis of Norwich has a shot on goal during the Premier League match at St. James's Park, N

Will Christos Tzolis be handed another opportunity against Tottenham Hotspur? - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

With Milot Rashica and Mathias Normann ruled out of Norwich City's trip to Tottenham Hotspur, Dean Smith has decisions to make. 

The Kosovan international was beginning to display his quality after a £9m move from Werder Bremen in the summer, but a groin injury is likely to rule him out of the Canaries festive schedule.

Normann's prognosis is more optimistic, however. Injections will be used to manage the Norwegian's pelvic problems, and he should be back for next weekend's clash against Manchester United. 

After a frustrating draw against relegation-threatened Newcastle in midweek, will Smith show faith in those who failed to break down 10-men or look to implement some fresh faces in the capital?

Here are some of the critical issues City's head coach faces ahead of Sunday's game with Spurs. 

Who replaces Milot Rashica?

Just as the Kosovan was seemingly discovering a patch of impressive form, a slip in training prior to City's trip to Newcastle United has placed him on the injury table for three to four weeks. 

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Rashica's groin injury will likely mean the 25-year-old is out for the entirety of a busy festive schedule. 

But as one door closes, another one opens. 

On Tuesday, that provided an opportunity for Christos Tzolis, but he was sacrificed as Smith made a tactical tweak during the interval of Tuesday's clash with the Magpies. 

The Greek international had a conversation with Smith after that game and understood the reasoning for why he had been replaced. 

Smith has seen the response he wanted from the teenager in training, but whether that will translate to another start remains to be seen. 

Todd Cantwell could also be a contender to replace Rashica after missing the trip to St James' Park after being pinged. 

The creative midfielder has subsequently returned a PCR test after extra precautions were taken by the club and has now re-joined training. It is another setback in a season of frustrations so far for the academy graduate. 

His last outing against Southampton came as Smith admitted Cantwell lacked the match fitness required. It will be up to City's boss to determine whether or not the trip to Spurs comes too soon for the 23-year-old.

Kieran Dowell and Przemek Placheta could be outsiders for the wide left spot. 

Josh Sargent's endeavour went unrewarded again

Will Josh Sargent start against Spurs? - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Midfield continuity? Sargent - in or out?

Mathias Normann's setback isn't as bad as first feared, and City will continue to manage the pelvic issue which has plagued him since he arrived at the club. 

The Norwegian international will miss Sunday's trip to the capital but is expected to return as City welcome Manchester United to Carrow Road next weekend. 

Lukas Rupp has stepped into the centre of midfield and looked impressive during a 55-minute cameo against Wolves. Despite criticism against Newcastle, it was another solid offering on the whole. 

The German provides legs, experience and a safety in possession that City may require if they are to extract points from Spurs. 

Given Smith has placed plenty of focus on a higher press and more energy, an axis of Kenny McLean and Rupp looks likely. Throw Billy Gilmour into the mix, and you get a midfield three that City's head coach feels is closer to what he wants. 

The other debate surrounds Josh Sargent. 

The American international was influential off the bench against Southampton but has failed to replicate that level of performance against Wolves or Newcastle. 

Injuries elsewhere may prolong his stay in the side, but with Tzolis, Cantwell, Dowell, Placheta and Adam Idah all waiting in the wings, the time to deliver is getting closer. 

There is no faulting his endeavour or work rate off the ball, but his technical ability in tight areas and goal-scoring nous remains up for debate. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would be the perfect stage to silence his doubters.

The left-back debate

Most thought the conversations around who was better suited to that left-back position had concluded when Smith opted to start Brandon Williams over Dimitris Giannoulis in his first game in charge. 

The Manchester United loanee has performed well in Smith's opening three matches, but Giannoulis' impressive cameo against Newcastle seems to have re-opened the debate. 

Giannoulis' shortcomings are there for most to see; defensively, he has looked shaky at points during this season. That said, Williams' right-footedness does mean he brings the play back into central areas when City do work it out wide. 

Given the test of Tottenham will likely pit the player of choice against Lucas Moura, it seems likely Smith will edge for Williams again. Especially considering the job he did on Nicolas Pepe earlier in the season. 

But Giannoulis is knocking loudly at the door and does offer an attacking edge but also balance. Competition is healthy, and Williams will need to produce a performance here. 


Here is Connor Southwell's predicted Norwich City XI ahead of their trip to Tottenham Hotspur. - Credit: Archant

Norwich City (4-3-3): Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams; Rupp, McLean, Gilmour; Cantwell, Sargent; Pukki. 

Subs: Gunn, Omobamidele, Giannoulis, Sorensen, Lees-Melou, Placheta, Dowell, Tzolis, Idah