STARTING XIs: Covid issues force four City changes against Villa

Ben Gibson of Norwich in action during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, NorwichPicture by

Ben Gibson goes straight back into the Norwich City starting XI - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City have made four changes to their starting XI for tonight's clash with Aston Villa, as Emi Buendia returns to Carrow Road.

The Canaries are without nine players due to injury or illness but Ben Gibson returns to ease the defensive shortage, after missing Saturday's 1-0 home loss to Manchester United with a thigh strain.

Josh Sargent, Pierre Lees-Melou and Lukas Rupp all drop out of the squad, with head coach Dean Smith explaining: “It’s been a tough few days. We’ve had a few Covid-related drop outs and had to name the team quite late.

"We asked for a bit of Premier League guidance, but we’ll keep battling through and do what we can to maintain our high standards.”

Jacob Sorensen starts in central midfield in Rupp's place, Brandon Williams returns at left-back as Dimitris Giannoulis drops to the bench and Todd Cantwell comes in for Sargent on the left wing.

Under-23 forwards Jon Rowe and Tom Dickson-Peters are named among the Canaries substitutes.

Grant Hanley was forced off after 20 minutes on Saturday and is set to see a specialist to assess shoulder ligament damage. Williams returns having been ineligible against his parent club.

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Norway midfielder Mathias Normann (pelvis) is close to returning but misses a fourth game, as does Milot Rashica (groin) although the winger is on course to return against Arsenal on Boxing Day.

Greek winger Christos Tzolis was already in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 and young centre-back Andrew Omobamidele is likely to be out until after Christmas with a back problem.

Fellow central defender Christoph Zimmermann is hoping to return from ankle surgery next month.

Villa also lost 1-0 on Saturday, at Liverpool, and are nine points better off than bottom side City in 13th place.

Steven Gerrard has revealed that two players will be missing due to Covid-19 but hasn't identified them prior to the game.

Defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba picked up a knee injury at the weekend and joins attackers Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore in the treatment room.

Former Canaries star Buendia comes in for Nakamba, with Jacob Ramsey dropping back into midfield.

The visitors also have to make four changes to their bench, including former City goalkeeper Jed Steer and forward Anwar El Ghazi missing out.

- You can watch our reporters discuss the starting XIs in the video above

NORWICH (4-3-3): Krul; Aarons, Kabak, Gibson (C), Williams; Gilmour, Sorensen McLean; Placheta, Pukki, Cantwell. Subs: Gunn (GK), Tomkinson, Giannoulis, Mumba, Byram, Dowell, Idah, Rowe, Dickson-Peters 

VILA (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings (C), Targett; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia, Watkins, Young. Subs: Marschall (GK), Hause, Tuanzebe, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Trezeguet, Philogene-Bidace, Iroegbunam, Ings 

REFEREE: David Coote 

VAR: Peter Bankes 

FIXTURE CHANGES

City have announced a couple of fixture changes this evening, for games chosen for television coverage.

The home clash with Crystal Palace has been pushed back 24 hours to a 7.45pm kick-off on Wednesday, February 9.

Manchester City arrive at Carrow Road three days later for a clash picked up by Sky Sports, still on Saturday, February 12 but a 5.30pm kickoff.

- Pink Un+ subscribers can follow all of the action in our NCFC Live blog