Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur's FA Cup exits to non-league Luton Town and Championship outfit Leeds United respectively were among the upsets of the Fourth Round. The managers of the two Premier League clubs have both publicly welcomed the Wednesday night meeting between their sides coming so soon
"It’s good to have a game so quickly, it gives us an opportunity back in the Premier League and in a situation like this, the quicker the game comes, the better," Andre Villas-Boas told his club’s official website.
Chris Hughton echoed that sentiment in quotes on the Canaries’ site.
“What I’d like to expect is to see a reaction from my team. Whether that will see us put in a performance that we need to get a result that we want, we’ll only know that on Wednesday, but I’m quite sure it won’t be through a lack of effort.”
For differing reasons, both could really do with coming away from the midweek clash with three points.
Tottenham have lost just once in the league since November. But coming off the back of two draws (one of which was a good point against Manchester United) the Premier League’s current fourth-placed team could do with at least maintaining their three point advantage over Everton in fifth.
Norwich’s ten-game unbeaten run prior to the turn of the year feels a long time ago now. During that time Hughton’s team were looking like being one of the surprise gems of the 2012-13 campaign, with home wins over Arsenal and Manchester United particularly catching the eye.
A miserable Christmas and New Year’s period has since followed however, with no win since beating Wigan Athletic 2-1 on 15 December. This dry spell has left the East Anglian club currently sitting six points off the relegation zone.
The longer standing poor form of teams below them including Wigan, Aston Villa, and (until Tuesday night at least) Newcastle United has meant the alarm bells have not started ringing yet. But that could change if they do not start picking up a few wins soon.
Goals have been hard to come by of late for Norwich. The burden should not be on him alone, but Grant Holt will be certainly required to improve upon his four for the season. Though a report in The Guardian on Monday suggest he may be allowed to leave if the club can sign another one or two forwards.
There are threats elsewhere in the Norwich attack, but of greater importance against Tottenham will be the return of central defender Sebastien Bassong.
The former Spur was absent from the Canaries’ defense for their 5-0 loss to Liverpool. They are an altogether more solid proposition with Bassong present and will fancy their chances of stifling a team they have already stopped twice this season.
The concentration and organizational issues that saw Spurs concede costly goals in those meetings with Norwich (1-1 in the league, a 2-1 loss in the Capital One Cup) have largely been addressed in the league since then. But the creative inconsistencies that still plague the North Londoners against defensively stubborn opposition remain a concern.
With that in mind, the signing of German midfielder Lewis Holtby was pushed forward from the summer to January this week.
The former Schalke man is available to play against Norwich. How Villas-Boas plans to incorporate him into his starting line-up is not yet clear. Nonetheless it is an interesting prospect to see how Holtby will fit into a team already featuring some big name attacking talents.
Jermain Defoe is set to return after missing the cup defeat against Leeds through injury. It has emerged since that game that the striker has been receiving treatment for an abdominal injury he has been carrying.
It may partly account for why, after a strong first half to the season goal-scoring wise, Defoe has not been as prolific of late. Mostly though it seemed that playing alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, the England international struggled to find as frequently the space he had been utilising so effectively weeks earlier.
With Adebayor still away at the African Cup of Nations, Defoe has a chance to find his groove again as Spurs’ lone striker.