Norwich City vs. Manchester City: 5 Key Battles to Watch

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

Norwich City vs. Manchester City: 5 Key Battles to Watch

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    Manchester City need to bounce back against Norwich.

    Roberto Mancini's side suffered a shocking defeat against Sunderland in their Boxing Day trip to the North East. The champions are now seven points off the Premier League summit and cannot afford to squander any more points.

    Can Norwich grab victory against another Manchester side this season? Carrow Road has already witnessed a stunning triumph in the fixture versus Manchester United. Mancini will be well aware of the quality Chris Hughton's side possess, and will be hopeful of a performance similar to last season's 6-1 drubbing in the corresponding fixture.

    Here's five key battles to watch. Enjoy!

Mark Bunn vs. Sergio Aguero

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    Mark Bunn hasn't been particularly convincing since coming in for the injured John Ruddy. However, an improved performance against Chelsea will give the Canaries keeper a huge boost of confidence going into the clash with Manchester City.

    Ruddy has been one of the Premier League's unsung heroes this campaign. Therefore, while he looks to be on the sideline until March (via BBC Sport), Bunn needs to start producing consistent performances.

    Against Chelsea, the Englishman made three crucial saves and claimed two crosses successfully. Bunn's defence continues to stop plenty of shots heading towards his goal. This could be severely tested against the Premier League champions—especially in their bid to avenge the 1-0 loss to Sunderland.

    It's likely Bunn will have plenty of touches in this game. If so, he needs to massively improve his distribution. Against Rafa Benitez's side, the 28-year-old completed just 32 percent of his 22 long balls. Seven successful passes across 90 minutes is not enough.

Sebastian Bassong/Michael Turner vs. City's Attack

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    Chris Hughton's two centre-backs have been in exceptional form recently. Now that Sebastian Bassong and Michael Turner have shrugged off fitness problems, the duo have quickly established one of the Premier League's most underrated partnerships.

    Robert Mancini insists on chopping and changing his strikers. Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero started against Sunderland and failed to score. The same duo failed to break down a leaky Reading defence the week before.

    A trip to Carrow Road calls for an attack that possesses physicality and speed. Don't be surprised to see Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli start this one. Will Mancini cave in and sign another striker this January? 

Alexander Tettey vs. Yaya Toure

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    Alexander Tettey provides Norwich with industry. The Norwegian will need to be in sparkling form if he's going to stop Yaya Toure taking control of the game.

    Norwich's new signing made three tackles against Chelsea. He also contributed six successful interceptions—double the amount of any other player on the pitch.

    Tettey has the ability to quash any of Toure's bursting runs. While the Ivorian's form hasn't matched his displays of last year, he has improved over the last few matches.

    With a foot here and a tackle there, Tettey can shield his defence before any ominous signs begin to loom.

Robert Snodgrass vs. Matija Nastasic

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    Robert Snodgrass is the type of player who can win Norwich this game. He always appeared to be a natural fit for the Premier League while at Leeds United and hasn't disappointed since his arrival.

    In his last outing against Chelsea, Snodgrass provided three key passes to his teammates. While he doesn't have a great deal of pace, the experienced player can carve open defences with an accurate ball from any angle.

    Snodgrass completed 50 percent of his crosses against the European champions. Matija Nastasic is likely to remain in the left-back position for City. The youngster has adapted to Premier League life well, but could be taught a footballing lesson if Snodgrass plays with the same intensity of recent matches.

    Patrice Evra will agree.

Joe Hart vs. Howlers

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    Many will outline Joe Hart as the best goalkeeper in the world. While he was exceptional in City's title-winning Premier League season, the charismatic Englishman has been at fault for a number of clangers this campaign.

    Champions League errors aside, Hart's form has been defined by plenty of sloppiness in the Premier League. Steven Caulker, Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney have all benefited from the keeper's mistakes. Most recently, Sunderland winger Adam Johnson downed his old team with the help of his former colleague.

    Hart isn't the kind of player who dwells on such inefficiencies. He has the ability to win any match for City. Even so, current form will have Grant Holt licking his lips.


    Do you agree with my key battles? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:

    All statistics in this article are courtesy of WhoScored.