The stand out tie in the latest round of midweek Championship fixtures sees Norwich take on league leaders Newcastle at Carrow Road. In recent years this would have been a Premier League fixture, instead both sides have sights firmly set on returning to the top-flight.
Newcastle lead the charge but have been less convincing than expected, losing seven of 30 matches so far, albeit only drawing twice. Norwich, meanwhile, may feel fortunate to find themselves narrowly outside the playoffs, considering an awful run of form between October and mid-January. They have, however, dramatically improved since, amassing more points than any other Championship side in 2017.
The Canaries have won four of their last five, with a draw against relegation threatened Wigan spoiling a perfect run. They haven’t yet played any side from the top 10 in this period and Newcastle should provide a much sterner test.
The Magpies themselves have been indifferent of late, failing to get a run of wins. Nonetheless, star man Dwight Gayle is set to return, as reported by the club, after missing four weeks with a hamstring injury. With the Geordies now out of the FA Cup, attention will be solely on gaining promotion whilst wary of tough upcoming matches; including away trips to four of the top seven.
The reverse fixture in September saw a Gayle hat-trick as Newcastle completed a late turnaround; scoring twice inside injury time to win 4-3. Their most recent top-flight encounters ended 3-2 and 6-2; giving a staggering total of 20 goals from just three previous meetings.
Norwich and boss Alex Neil are high on confidence after demolishing Nottingham Forest at the weekend, having scored two wonder goals in the process. Results wise the side look unaffected from the loss of key players Martin Olsson and Robert Brady to Swansea and Burnley, respectively, in January.
Mitchell Dijks has performed well at left back since arriving on loan from Ajax and Alex Tettey returns from suspension to increase midfield options. Right-back stalwart Ivo Pinto may miss out following a knee injury at the weekend.
This is a Premier League clash in all but name. Both sides have maintained a core of experienced, quality players and are well equipped for the challenge of gaining promotion. Carrow Road will no doubt be rocking and you can expect the action to match the occasion.
Prediction: 2-2 Draw.