Christoph Zimmermann

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Premier League Preview: Norwich City v. Man City

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  • Man City unbeaten, but 2nd in the PL
  • Norwich, behind Pukki’s production, a tough team to beat
  • First meeting since a 0-0 draw on March 3, 2016

While very little has been surprising about Manchester City’s start to the 2019-20 Premier League campaign, the same can’t be said of Norwich City’s first four games since returning to England’s top flight — particularly the goal-scoring exploits of Teemu Pukki. The two-time defending champions visit the newly promoted Canaries on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com).

Man City enter Matchweek 5 in second place, two points behind leaders Liverpool, and have conceded just three goals in four games (two came in one game, their lone draw of the season, against Tottenham Hotspur). Sergio Aguero (six) and Raheem Sterling (five) have combined to score 11 of City’s 13 goals thus far. Arguably the most lethal attacking duo in the world at the moment, Aguero and Sterling will be anxious to face the PL’s worst defensive record (10 goals conceded) on Saturday. In red-hot form, Sterling scored one and assisted on three others in England’s 5-3 victory over Kosovo on Tuesday.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Though Norwich enter Sunday’s clash at Carrow in 19th place, the route by which they arrived in the relegation zone has surprised many. Thrashed by Liverpool on the opening day, the general consensus was that Daniel Farke‘s side acquitted itself well. Then came a resounding 3-1 victory over Newcastle United, highlighted by Pukki’s hat trick. Again, Norwich were hardly dominated in a loss to Chelsea before finally being comprehensively outplayed by West Ham United just before the international break. Pukki has five goals of Norwich’s six goals and was named the PL Player of the Month for August, leaving many to wonder how much longer he can keep up the magic, and whether or not they can survive if his well of goals dries up.

Injuries/suspensions

Norwich: OUT – Tom Trybull (ankle), Christoph Zimmermann (foot), Onel Hernandez (knee), Timm Klose (knee)

Man City: OUT – Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Benjamin Mendy (fitness); QUESTIONABLE – John Stones (thigh), Ilkay Gundogan (illness)


Projected lineups

Norwich: Krul – Byram, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis – Drmic Leitner – Buendia, Stieperman, Cantwell – Pukki

Man City: Ederson – Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko – Rodrigo, Silva, De Bruyne – Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on Sterling reaching the level of Messi and Ronaldo: “They scored 50 or 60 goals a season in the last decade, and have won the Ballon d’Or and prizes every year except this one. They are legends, something unique in world football. If Raheem can target that level, wow. Of course, he can do it and I won’t be the guy to tell him his limits. But right now, nobody — at any club — can compare with these two guys what they do every week for a decade. Nobody can compare.”

Daniel Farke, on the challenge of facing Man City: “Some lads are nervous, you can tell. It’s normal and it’s up to me to give them some trust and confidence. We should go into the game with nothing to lose. I will back my lads whatever happens tomorrow. I want them to be brave. They should have no regrets.”


Prediction

All 11 Norwich players could turn in the performance of their lives, and City could still win 3-1. The gap between “two-time defending champions” and “just arrived in the big time” is massive, and Saturday’s clash should highlight the disparity. 3-1, Man City.

Farke says VAR failed Norwich City, Zimmermann

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Norwich City manager Daniel Farke‘s team already had a defender fitness problem when Christoph Zimmermann was forced out of an eventual 2-0 to West Ham United on Saturday.

And the boss is wondering what exactly VAR was doing when Zimmermann was hurt by a sliding Sebastien Haller challenge and, in Farke’s mind, hampered in trying to stop Haller’s goal minutes later.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-0 Norwich ]

“I’m a friend of VAR, but on this day it didn’t work”

While his below comments are entirely accurate — Haller was the scorer of the goal in question, not celebrating atop the scorer — it’s easy to see why Farke is angry as another center back goes for scans.

“This is a game where VAR didn’t work,” Farke said. “There was a nasty tackle against my center back and it wasn’t even given as a free kick. Then a few mins later my center back wasn’t able to spring back and block the cross (on Haller’s goal). My center back is now in hospital. My feeling was this made the difference.

“The only thing I say is that my center back is in hospital and the other player is on the shoulders of the West Ham goalscorer.”

Criticizing every instance of VAR is going to get tiring, and no one wants VAR to be able to call fouls and award yellows — let’s not take that away from the field — but is there a larger point here?

It may not take so long for VAR to get used to the Premier League, remember that the on-field refs are going to have growing pains: Worried about the flow of the game, let alone their own ego after review, it seems we’re in for more fits and starts.

Also don’t forget that this was a comfortable win for West Ham United, who put 8 of its 18 shots on target, and Farke’s required to talk about something after the game. “We were outclassed today” isn’t less fun as a line of reasoning.

West Ham too much for defender-troubled Norwich City

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Dominant West Ham United danced past defender-starved Norwich City, keeping Teemu Pukki off the board in a 2-0 win at the London Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sebastien Haller scored his third goal in two matches, and Andriy Yarmolenko also scored as West Ham out-attempted the visitors 18-8 and put eight of their shots on target.

Look out for the Irons if Manuel Pellegrini has finally instilled some consistency. Now in fifth, they have a very light schedule over the next 3 months with no back-to-back challenges until late November.

We’ve said it before and been proven silly, but this is another stretch of season which could see West Ham claim the power they so desperately crave in the Premier League.


Three things

  1. Haller gets dirty to score again — The Irons’ French striker seems the real deal, and his contested finish of Arthur Masuaku‘s cross showed why West Ham believes he can be the force to propel it into the Top Six.
  2. Norwich’s depth woes — The Canaries have been beset by injuries at the back, and lost Christoph Zimmermann early in this one. Already a perceived weakness and with PL star Timm Klose out for a while with injury, Daniel Farke‘s Canaries have to hope to outscore teams. That simply won’t happen every week.
  3. The forgotten man delivers — Yarmolenko is a wonderful talent, but the 29-year-old missed plenty of time at Borussia Dortmund in 2017-18 and for West Ham last season. Now healthy (**knocks on wood**) the Ukrainian star can be a big part of West Ham’s hopes.

Man of the Match: Felipe Anderson — Holding onto the ex-Lazio playmaker may be an even better move than signing Haller.


Norwich’s back line has been troubled by injuries, so all big stops feel a victory. Christoph Zimmermann slid to block a dangerous looking effort from Felipe Anderson early in the match.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

He couldn’t stop Haller, although to be fair few have looked capable of that this season. The Frenchman stretched to put Arthur Masuaku’s cross into the goal, another fine finish.

Zimmermann left the game after 36 minutes, and the Canaries were in a bad spot.

Yarmolenko made it a two-goal lead in the 56th minute when he volleyed a deflection into the goal.