Norwich City vs. Luton Town: Complete Preview, Team News, Predicted Lineups
Norwich City could face a potential banana skin in the fourth round of the FA Cup, as they host non-league Luton Town at Carrow Road.
There are 85 places between the two teams on the football pyramid, but the Canaries will be wary of how Luton bridged the gap to defeat Championship side Wolves in the last round.
The fixture represents a welcome break from the busy league schedule for Chris Hughton and his side, especially when you consider that City have failed to win any of their last six Premier League games since beating Wigan Athletic 2-1 in mid December.
As for the away side, they will be backed by a 4,000-strong contingent making the trip from Bedfordshire, as they aim to claim another scalp in this year's competition.
It has all the makings of a classic cup tie, and here is a complete preview of what to expect...
Norwich City manager Chris Hughton has confirmed that Andrew Surman and Declan Rudd will start the clash against Luton Town, with Surman coming back into the fold for the first time since the Capital One cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur back in October.
The fixture is likely to be Rudd's last appearance at Carrow Road this season, with Hughton admitting to The Evening News that he hopes to tie up a loan deal for the young 'keeper before the transfer window shuts next week, following the recent arrival of Lee Camp.
The game will come too soon for Steve Morison, who will again miss out thanks to a thigh injury, but Steven Whittaker could return to the squad, having recovered from his spell on the sidelines.
The Canaries' boss is likely to shuffle the pack with the likes of David Fox, Leon Barnett and Simeon Jackson all in line for a start, but Sébastien Bassong will probably not be risked once more, after missing the 5-0 hammering at Liverpool due to a calf complaint.
As for the Hatters, Paul Buckle will have the luxury of choosing from an almost full-strength squad after JJ O'Donnell and Jon Shaw returned to fitness in recent weeks.
However, Town will be without the cup-tied Scott Neilson and Simon Ainge after they played in the earlier stages of the competition for Grimsby Town and Guiseley, respectively.
Andre Gray is likely to be the danger man for the visitors, with the striker having made a big impression at Kenilworth Road since joining permanently from Hinckley Town in the summer.
What the Managers Said
Chris Hughton (Norwich City)
"Although they (Luton) are a conference team, we see them as a league outfit—they’re a big team with a big history and they still get very good support, and at that level have very good players.
"We’ll be the favourites on the day irrespective of what team we put out, but there’s always that possibility (of an upset), and that’s the reason that we've seen some of the results that we have recently—that’s what cup football is all about and we have to be very guarded.
“I’ll make a decision on the starting eleven, but it will be a strong squad. Whatever changes I make, they will all be players that have been involved in first team squads this season.” (via Canaries.co.uk)
Paul Buckle (Luton Town)
“It’s no pressure again which is nice for us, so we can enjoy it, enjoy the next couple of days but at the same time we want to do ourselves justice and we want to put on a good show.
“The one thing we have to do is that on the day the players will have to play at their highest levels.
“The boys will know that, they know they're up against Premier League opposition and Norwich have earned the right to be in the Premier League. They are an excellent club, they have got really good players and our players will understand that.
“We have to respect them but if we do too much we will come away at quarter to five feeling we could have done better.” (via lutontown.co.uk)
Last Meeting Between the Sides
The respective fortunes of Norwich City and Luton Town couldn't have been more different in recent years, with the former currently playing Premier League football and the latter now plying their trade in the fifth tier.
However, when the two sides last met in 2007 the clubs were both competing in The Championship, with the Canaries managing to secure the double over the Bedfordshire outfit in that season.
Both fixtures ended in 3-2 victories for Norwich, with the second fixture at Kenilworth Road a classic encounter in particular, thanks to Simon Lappin's last-minute winner.
On that occasion, City had to come from behind on two occasions to secure the points after Björn Runström and David Bell twice put the Hatters ahead.
Chris Martin and Jason Shackell levelled for the away side, before Lappin's injury time free kick clinched a dramatic victory.
The season ultimately ended in heartbreak for Luton, with the club suffering relegation to League One, whilst Norwich finished in a disappointing 16th place.
Predicted Lineup and Current Form: Norwich City
It is likely that Chris Hughton will take the opportunity to rest some of his key players with the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers still to come in the next week.
Hughton has already said that Declan Rudd will start in goal, and I would expect both Russell Martin and Ryan Bennett to keep their places with Steven Whittaker and Sébastien Bassong struggling for fitness.
The game should allow both Leon Barnett and Marc Tierney to get a rare run-out in place of Michael Turner and Javier Garrido, whilst the periphery figure of David Fox could also get a chance to stake a claim alongside Bradley Johnson.
The front four is where it gets a bit interesting, with a whole host of combinations possible, but the chances of Robert Snodgrass keeping his spot on the right wing and Elliott Bennett playing behind the lone striker seem the most probable.
Alternatively, Snodgrass could be rested, with the versatile Bennett shifting to the right and Jonny Howson playing in the hole; or Hughton may opt to bring back Wes Hoolahan into the starting 11.
Finally, after his impressive display against Peterborough United in the last round, Simeon Jackson could be the preferred choice upfront, although the Canaries' boss may feel the need to play Grant Holt in this potentially sticky encounter. On-loan Harry Kane is the other option available to Hughton.
Norwich City Last 6: LLLWDL
Predicted Lineup and Current Form: Luton Town
Unlike Hughton, Paul Buckle will definitely be picking his strongest side available, as he plots an upset.
Hatters 'keeper Mark Tyler called this clash his 'dream tie', having grown up supporting the Canaries, and he will almost certainly get a chance to finally play at Carrow Road.
Skipper Ronnie Henry and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner should occupy the full-back spots, whilst Greg Taylor and János Kovács are very much the preferred combination at centre-half.
With Scott Neilson cup-tied, JJ O'Donnell should once again deputise in his place and will most likely be partnered by Arnaud Mendy in the centre of midfield, with Jonathan Smith on the left.
Finally, Jon Shaw should return to partner the impressive Andre Gray upfront, and Gray in particular will have to be watched, having hit a number of goals this season. Stuart Fleetwood is also having a good campaign and may fancy his chances of gaining a starting spot in Norfolk.
Luton Town Last 6: LWLWWD
This will be far from plain sailing for the Canaries, but I would expect them to have enough to progress to Round 5.
If this fixture was at Kenilworth Road, it may well be a different story, but with Norwich on home soil—where they have been impressive this season and where a full house is expected—it is going to be a tough ask for the visitors.
Chris Hughton will demand a response from his team after their dreadful display at Anfield last time out, and there will be a lot of players in yellow who will be hoping to make a point.
Having said that, if the Hatters can stop their Premiership opponents scoring early on, then the alarm bells could start to ring for both the Norwich players and their fans. One goal may be enough to win the game, with the City attack struggling for goals all season.
However, this is a game that Hughton will have targeted as a must-win, as the Canaries try to get back on track after a really poor run of form, and I expect them to do just that.
Predicted Score-line: Norwich City 2-0 Luton Town
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