The Premier League’s return is now finally upon us and a pivotal clash at Carrow Road kicks off Friday night’s action as match week 30 gets underway with Southampton travelling to bottom of the table Norwich.
Daniel Farke’s side sit six points adrift at the foot of the table and although a favourable run-in awaits, you can’t help but fear for the Canaries who have taken just four points from their last six Premier League games.
What could be so crucial for Norwich is that five of their last nine are at home, and with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City still to play away from East Anglia, playing the teams in and around them at Carrow Road and winning is of paramount importance if Norwich are to remain a top-flight outfit next season.
In terms of a head-to-head record with their south coast counterparts, Southampton have won three of the last four league meetings between the sides:
Southampton 2-1 Norwich (04/12/19)
Norwich 1-0 Southampton (02/01/16)
Southampton 3-0 Norwich (30/08/15)
Southampton 4-2 Norwich (15/03/14)
Hasenhuttl will be all too aware of his side slipping into the relegation picture. Five defeats from their last seven has just left the Saints nervously looking over their shoulder, after such a promising run of form to start 2020.
This is a game where early goals could prove pivotal and these are two sides heavily involved in them. In fact, Norwich and Southampton have seen the opening goal scored within the first 30 minutes on 18 occasions between them so far in their respective league campaigns, that’s amongst the highest in the division.
There were a number of injuries to both the Norwich and Southampton personnels prior to lockdown but the lengthy break from action has meant that the majority of these players could now feature on Friday night.
Sam Byram and Onel Hernandez have both returned to full training in a boost to Daniel Farke whilst Southampton can call on Nathan Redmond for the trip to Carrow Road, the Englishman so integral to the Saints attack.
Stuart Armstrong and Will Smallbone are also in contention after fully recovering from pre-lockdown injuries.
One player who will not feature for the visitors though is Moussa Djenepo. The Mali international is due to serve the first of a three match ban after being dismissed against Newcastle last time out.
The game is so finely poised. Although, Norwich sit bottom of the pile heading into the restart, Southampton’s dire run of form presents a huge opportunity for the hosts to kickstart their survival bid and put pressure on the teams above them, who all have particularly tough opening fixtures. Having said that, I still think Southampton will do enough to take a positive result back home to Hampshire with them.
Match preview written by Jack Mirkovic.