Team news: Selection issues mount for Norwich City ahead of EFL Cup tie at Leeds United
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Picking a starting line-up for tomorrow's EFL Cup fourth round tie at Leeds United will be far from straight forward for Norwich City manager Alex Neil.
In the last round of the competition the Canaries boss was able to make 10 changes to his team and saw the selection pay off, impressively winning 2-0 away at Premier League stalwarts Everton.
However, with a crunch Championship match at Brighton to bear in mind as well, Neil has several fitness worries which will mean wholesale changes are going to be more difficult against Championship rivals Leeds.
The Scot revealed after Saturday's disappointing 1-0 home loss to Preston that midfielder Jonny Howson will be out for around two months having had surgery on an ankle injury.
He joins Matt Jarvis (knee) and Youssouf Mulumbu (foot) in the treatment room long term, while Ivo Pinto pulled up with a groin problem ahead of the Preston game.
Experienced full-back Steven Whittaker has also been recovering from surgery recently, Neil revealed at his pre-match press conference at Colney this afternoon.
'Steven's had a bit of surgery on his stomach a couple of weeks ago but he's in training at the moment,' the Canaries boss said. 'He had a hernia from years ago and it's just getting that repaired.'
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With Graham Dorrans and Alex Tettey also being one yellow card away from their fifth of the season and a one-match suspension, Louis Thompson looks almost certain to retain his EFL Cup starting place, as Neil deals with Howson's injury.
'It's a blow because everybody, certainly at the start of the season deemed that we had too many midfield players and now the one thing we're starting to get short of is midfield players,' he continued.
'I think that's due to the fact that we play two central and three wide in terms of midfield players and also how many games there are in the Championship, in terms of keeping everybody fit, it's certainly an area you don't want to get caught short in because that's the basis of your team, right at the heart of it.'
Neil looked unperturbed by the situation ahead of the trip to Yorkshire however, having been able to call on experienced players including John Ruddy, Seb Bassong and Steven Naismith for the Everton game in the third round.
'I think we've still got enough at the moment but what we are is not in as strong a position as we were at the start of the season, when we had everyone firing and fit, then it made for some real difficult decisions for me because I had to leave some really good players out,' Neil continued.
'Whereas at the moment we're pretty much left with the lads who are fit, which is great and they've done really well for us but it's always better for the squad and better for me if you've got everybody available because it drives them on, it makes my decisions hard, which I want and unfortunately we've got quite a few injuries right now.'
Neil acknowledged that Saturday's league trip to second-placed Brighton will be important but made it clear he will not be pressing the panic button after Saturday's narrow defeat to North End.
'One and a half games ago everyone is going on about how we're going to romp the league and win promotion and then a game and a half later we're talking about how important Brighton is, so I think that's just football for you,' he said.
'But when you put things into context, we've won seven out of the last 10 games, we're disappointed with a point from Fulham, certainly from the position we found ourselves in (winning 2-0), and we were disappointed with how we played at the weekend.
'There's no getting away from that but all we can do now is respond.
'The last time we got a bad result (losing 4-3 at Newcastle) there was a real good response on the back of it (winning 2-1 at Wolves), so we want to make sure certainly in this game and then on Saturday that we approach it as such.'