Norwich City writer Paddy Davitt predicts a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa. What are your score predictions?
Mercifully, the focus will shift to the pitch at kick-off after a build-up predictably dominated by City's first brush with the man credited with their recent rise to the Premier League.
Paul Lambert turned the siege mentality into an art form as City's tightly-knit band of brothers fought their way up from the depths of League One.You sense a large part of the Scot will be relishing the opportunity to show the Canaries what they are missing after his acrimonious departure to the Midlands and those on-going legal issues. But Chris Hughton's ability to plot Arsenal's downfall, allied to the latest miserable entry in Villa's worst start to a season since 1986 at Fulham, has altered the pyschological dynamic.
City will travel free of the stresses and strains building on Lambert's shoulders. Norwich's fan base knew what was in store this season. A large rump of Villa's support still find it hard to comprehend their club is now forced to toil at the wrong end of the table. The expectation levels on one of the grand dames of the English game remain residually high.
Injury-permitting, Hughton will surely see no reason to alter the line-up which scrapped and subdued Arsenal into submission. City were strong defensively and creative in attack with Wes Hoolahan a perfect foil for Grant Holt. Setting aside the desire for some of Lambert's ex-players to prove a point or two to their previous boss, this game looks perfectly set-up for the same counter-attacking masterplan. Lambert knows no other way but forward and at home the onus will be on his young side to carry the fight. If City can take their new-found defensive resolve away and quell the inevitable blistering home start, they could capitalise on inevitable unease.
Aston Villa 2, Norwich City 2