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Preview: Norwich City Vs Charlton Athletic

A lot has happened since Deon Burton’s hat-trick relegated Norwich City to League One at The Valley in 2009.

In fact, three players who played for the Canaries that day (Gary Doherty, Darrel Russell and David Mooney) went on to play, or at least attempt to, for the Addicks.

But, more importantly, both clubs have been through turmoil, seemingly got out of it, and then placed in it again over the course of five years.

Norwich’s climb from the third tier back to the top was remarkable, while Charlton’s record-breaking promotion and subsequent 9th place finish in the Championship, although not as impressive, had supporters dreaming of following in the Canaries’ footsteps.

Alas, last season proved difficult for both sides.

While Charlton, with fans enduring an emotionally taxing season in more ways than one, avoided a return to League One, Norwich weren’t so lucky. Despite making a host of seemingly impressive summer purchases, the Canaries dropped back to the Championship after three seasons in the Premier League.

To different extents, difficult seasons were predicted for both clubs this time around. Norwich’s appointment of Neil Adams was seen as an odd one, with many suggesting he wouldn’t be able to lead them back to the top flight, while uncertainty at The Valley saw many pundits tip the Addick for relegation.

So it’s with some surprise that these two sharers of turmoil meet at Carrow Road on Tuesday in positive spirits.

Where there was no real winner from that clash in 2009, the Canaries would have remained in a state regardless of Championship survival, the winner of this game can claim a massive boost as they look upwards.

For Norwich, a win would cement their position at the top of the division while also ending Charlton’s unbeaten start to the season. For Charlton, victory would not only raise a few eyebrows, but convince supporters concerned by a drop in performance levels in recent weeks that there’s better than an outside chance of challenging for a top six finish throughout the season.

LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-1 NORWICH CITY

Fraser Foster ruined my 15th birthday, and he’s still not apologised.

The future England goalkeeper showed signs that he would one day be worth £10m, pulling off a string of saves to render Charlton’s unrelenting pressure meaningless, and my birthday a disaster, at The Valley in April 2010.

In fact, the Addicks dominated table-toppers Norwich for the duration of the contest, but Messrs Burton, Bailey and Forster were unable to find a way past the Canaries’ goalkeeper.

It meant that Michael Nelson’s first-half header, Norwich’s only shot-on-target, was enough to give the visitors a 1-0 win and confirm their promotion back to the Championship, derailing Charlton’s automatic promotion hopes and deeply upsetting a birthday boy in the process.

FORM

Norwich: WLDWWD

There was some doubt as to how the Canaries would cope following their relegation from the Premier League.

While their squad screamed immediate return to the top flight, their manager, Neil Adams, and a sense of doom and gloom around Carrow Road following an inept 2013/14 season suggested becoming lost somewhere in the Championship’s mid-table abyss was just as likely.

However, Adams has quickly calmed the concerns of Norwich supporters, with the Canaries winning six of their opening nine league games, scoring three or more goals in five of those victories.

It means Norwich currently occupy the division’s summit, and with the form of Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban, the pair notching 11 goals between them, they’ve got a fair chance of staying there or there abouts for the duration of the campaign.

A daunting prospect for the Addicks, but, at the very least, some solace can be taken from the fact that the Canaries are not completely invincible. A 2-2 draw with Birmingham City, during which the Blues led 2-0 at one stage, and a 1-0 League Cup defeat to League Two side Shrewsbury, albeit with a rotated but not necessarily weak side, suggest there’s some chinks in the rather impressive armour.

Charlton: DDDWDL

“Ten-man Middlesbrough weathered late pressure to earn a point against draw specialists Charlton at The Valley,” reads the opening paragraph of the BBC’s report from Saturday’s game.

‘Draw specialists Charlton’. I’m unsure if I like that.

In one sense, it’s a compliment to the Addicks’ hard to beat nature. Half through resoluteness, half through luck, Bob Peeter’s side have fought hard this campaign to maintain their unbeaten league record.

There has been a great deal of resilience shown by the Addicks this season

There has been a great deal of resilience shown by the Addicks this season

In another, it’s a criticism, showing Charlton’s failure to hold onto leads and finish off chances in tight games. And it’s that failure to win, with just one victory in six, which has made some Addicks stop championing the unbeaten run.

Regardless, few Charlton fans would complain should that draw specialist tag gain further substance after Tuesday night.

THE OPPOSITION

As you would expect from an in-form side, Norwich’s starting XI has become relatively settled in recent weeks.

Jos Hooiveld and Michael Turner have formed a solid centre-back partnership, Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey are a formidable midfield force, while Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan offer a potent threat from out wide.

In addition to having the privilege of knowing his strongest starting line-up, Adams also has the bonus of a large squad that contains few injuries. Only Gary Hooper is unavailable for the Canaries, but the form of Grabban and Jerome means his absence doesn’t hurt Norwich.

Nonetheless, there’s quality in abundance in reserve for the Canaries, and the impact youngster Josh Murphy had from the bench in their win over Blackpool on Saturday means he’s one of several impressive players, including Kyle Lafferty and Johnny Howson, consistently pushing to start.

THE ADDICKS

Charlton look set to be without Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s draw with Middlesbrough.

The Iceland international has seen the start of his Charlton career somewhat blighted by injury, and Lawrie Wilson may well get another chance to fill in on the right flank.

There is also some doubt as to Whether Chris Solly will be fit enough to occupy the right-back position.

Solly, who briefly wore the captain’s armband on Saturday, has been unable to play Tuesday games this season due to a persistent knee issue.

However, Peeters recently said the need to rest the 23-year-old would soon be at an end. Whether that puts him into contention for the Carrow Road clash remains to be seen.

Should Solly’s knee not allow him to play, youngster Joe Gomez will again deputise for his fellow academy graduate.

Chris Solly may finally be fit enough to start a midweek game

Chris Solly may finally be fit enough to start a midweek game

KEY BATTLE – MIDFIELD VS MIDFIELD

Without wishing to diminish the importance of other factors, there’s been one obvious difference between Charlton’s best and least impressive performances this season. In fact, the same can be said with the better and weaker moments over the course of 90 minutes.

When Charlton press, they look like a formidable force. When the Addicks stand off their opponents, they look like something of a mess.

That difference was clear at the weekend. In the first half, Middlesbrough were allowed to play, while Charlton lacked any sense of urgency. In the second half, pressure was finally applied to Boro while they were in possession of the ball and not only did the Addicks looked a stronger defensive unit, but they began to create attacking openings of their own.

Of course, unless you’re one of Europe’s heavyweights, it’s unreasonable to demand constant pressing for 90 minutes. But, against a Norwich side who will cut the Addicks open should they be given time to do so, it’s of paramount importance that pressure is applied when the Canaries are in possession for the duration of the game.

It’s for this reason that I would advocate a genuine 4-5-1 formation being used at Carrow Road with three central midfielders. Johnnie Jackson and Yoni Buyens sitting deeper with Jordan Cousins slightly further forward, flanked by the hard-working Wilson and Franck Moussa.

Press, press, press.

7

The midfield’s task at Carrow Road will be a tough one

PREDICTION

On several occasions this season, I have logically predicated defeat, only for the Addicks to pull of something of a surprise and take a point or three. On this occasion, playing against a table-topping side with an unbeaten record at Carrow Road, expecting and predicting anything other than defeat would be very brave.

Norwich City 2-1 Charlton Athletic

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