Norwich are hosting Arsenal in Premier League on Boxing Day, despite confirming several positive Covid-19 cases in the squad on Christmas Eve.
The visiting Gunners will be desperate for the tie to be played out, entering it in a rich vein of form. Arsenal have really picked up again in recent weeks, having now won four games in a row in all competitions, while now sitting inside the Premier League’s top four.
Following defeats to Manchester United and Everton, Mikel Arteta’s side have beaten Southampton, West Ham and Leeds in the previous three league outings before securing a Carabao Cup semi-final spot courtesy of a 5-1 thrashing of Sunderland on Tuesday.
They should be confident of making it five on the bounce against a Norwich side seemingly destined for a bottom-three finish this term. The Canaries had looked to be picking up form under new boss Dean Smith but are now once more firmly planted to the foot of the Premier League table after having failed to win any of their previous five and having lost all of their last three.
When is kick off? Sunday 26 December, 15:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Carrow Road
TV channel? Sky Sports Soccer Special (UK), fuboTV (US)
Highlights? BBC Match of the Day (UK), Sky Sports Football YouTube
Referee? Graham Scott
VAR? Lee Mason
Norwich have been hit with several fresh Covid-19 cases in the squad ahead of this one.
Smith will also have to contend without Grant Hanley, Christoph Zimmermann, Andrew Omobamidele and Milot Rashica who will all miss out through injury. Mathias Normann has suffered a setback that will keep him sidelined, despite being expected to return.
Elsewhere, Ozan Kabak has been passed fit to return.
You can read Norwich’s predicted lineup here.
Arteta also has a few Covid-19-related absences to contend with for his side’s visit of Carrow Road. Calum Chambers was the latest to join Pablo Mari in isolation, although Albert Sambi Lokonga has resumed training. Ainsley Maitland-Niles will also be out of contention through an unrelated illness.
Takehiro Tomiyasu was absent in midweek after being forced off in Arsenal’s win over Leeds last weekend, and remains a doubt for this one. Cedric Soares deputised excellently in midweek, so the Japanese defender’s return will likely not be rushed.
Meanwhile, we will have to wait and see whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be afforded a return to the fold after missing the Gunners’ previous three outings due to disciplinary reasons.
You can read Arsenal’s predicted lineup here.
Quite unsurprisingly, Arsenal have dominated this fixture, winning nearly half of the two sides’ meetings. The Gunners have beaten Norwich 30 times in 61 encounters. while the Canaries boast just 11 victories. There have been 20 draws.
Sunday’s visitors have also dominated in recent years, winning seven of the past nine meetings, with the two other occasions resulting in draws.
Rather than looking at the heavily-weighted record between the two sides, however, it’s much more fun to reminisce about the surprising number of stunners scored in this fixture. From Jack Wilshere’s sublime 2013/14 Premier League goal of the season to Mark Robins’ audacious 1992/93 lob over David Seaman, the above compilation is well worth a watch.
There isn’t much hope for a Norwich win. Taking into consideration the history books and recent form, everything points to Arsenal taking all three points.
The Gunners seem to have found their feet under Arteta and, with 14 scored and just two conceded in their previous four outings to boast, they come into this tie with an insatiable groove about them.
Norwich, on the other hand, are as far away from a dancing mood as you can be. The yo-yo seems to have hit its high already, and the way down isn’t looking too pretty. There will undoubtedly be sparks from now until the end of the season but, for an inevitably relegation-threatened side, the visit of Arsenal will likely yield few joyous moments.
Prediction: Norwich 1-3 Arsenal