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Preview: Norwich City vs. Manchester City

Sports Mole looks ahead to Saturday's all-Premier League FA Cup third-round clash between Norwich City and Manchester City at Carrow Road.

Norwich City and Manchester City will get their FA Cup campaigns underway on Saturday as they face off in the third round at Carrow Road.

Five-time winners of the competition Man City will be looking to maintain their challenge on all fronts this season, while Norwich will have dreams of lifting the trophy for the first time in their history.


Alex Neil Manager of Norwich City looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on December 12, 2015© Getty Images

Norwich boss Alex Neil will get his first taste of the FA Cup as a manager this weekend, and he will be hopeful of springing one of the upsets that has helped the competition gain such a prestigious reputation.

While it would be harsh on the hosts to label any Norwich victory a 'giant-killing', the Canaries are certainly the underdogs heading into the contest despite home advantage.

The prospect of actually making it to Wembley and lifting the trophy, something Norwich have never done, is still a long way away, but it is a dream for all teams still present in the third round to aspire to.

In reality, though, Neil may feel that this match has come at the wrong time for his side. Premier League survival remains the priority for Norwich this season, and they were just beginning to build up a head of steam before the FA Cup break.

The Canaries have won three of their last four games and lost just one of their last five - a spell of form that includes taking points off Everton and Manchester United and, more importantly, has seen them climb up to 15th in the table.

A six-point cushion now separates them from the relegation zone and they can breathe a little easier heading into a spell that sees them face three top-half teams in their next four league outings.

Back-to-back wins without conceding over Aston Villa and Southampton either side of the turn of the year mean that Norwich have won consecutive matches for the first time this season and the first time in the Premier League since the final two games of the 2012-13 campaign - one of which came against Saturday's opponents.

Neil will be desperate to keep that momentum up, and being at home should certainly help with that. Only the top six have amassed more points in front of their own fans than Norwich, who are now five unbeaten at Carrow Road in a run stretching back to October.

Their FA Cup form is less encouraging, though. The Canaries have been knocked out in the third round in both of the last two seasons and have scored only one goal in their last four appearances in the competition.

Recent form (all competitions): LDWLWW

Man City

Manchester City's Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini watches during a UEFA Champions league Group D football match between Manchester City and Sevilla at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England on October 21, 2015.© Getty Images

Having suffered disappointment in the League Cup on Wednesday night, this FA Cup tie holds even more importance for Manuel Pellegrini.

His City side fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Everton in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final in midweek, leaving them needing to come from behind in the second leg at the Etihad later this month.

Pellegrini will be confident that his side can overturn that deficit in front of their own fans, but progress in the FA Cup would act as an insurance policy in the quest for silverware should the Toffees hold out.

The harsh reality, however, is that even success in both cup competitions may not be enough to save Pellegrini. The shadow of Pep Guardiola looms large over the Chilean, with the Etihad thought to be the Bayern Munich manager's next destination when he leaves the Allianz Arena in the summer.

By all accounts, it matters little what Pellegrini does in the intervening months if the City board are able to get their man, but at the very least he will want to end his time in Manchester with another piece of silverware having gone trophyless last season.

The Champions League is the holy grail for the club's owners, but the FA Cup has also so far eluded them during Pellegrini's reign. City have won the trophy just once since 1969, with that success coming under Roberto Mancini five years ago.

As things stand, City remain fighting on all four fronts, but this month could be a make-or-break one for their season. They remain only three points adrift of Arsenal in the Premier League, but they needed a late salvo against Watford last weekend to keep themselves within touching distance of the league leaders.

Defeat this weekend, a failure to overturn their League Cup deficit and dropped points in tricky upcoming Premier League games against Everton, Crystal Palace and West Ham United could turn a promising campaign into a disastrous one for City, although they will at least be expected to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time having drawn Dynamo Kiev.

It is their away form that is causing most problems, with only one win in their last eight domestic games on the road and an uncharacteristically low five goals scored in that time.

City have not lost an away FA Cup game since 2010, however, winning both of their visits to fellow top-flight teams in that time.

Recent form (all competitions): WLWDWL

Team News

Manchester City's Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Hull City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England on December 1, 2015© Getty Images

City were without Wilfried Bony due to a calf injury in midweek, but the Ivorian could be fit in time to start this weekend.

Pellegrini is likely to rest Sergio Aguero if at all possible, while other key players such as David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne may be left out of the starting lineup.

Vincent Kompany and Samir Nasri remain sidelined, while the injury sustained by Eliaquim Mangala against Everton is likely to see Martin Demichelis start alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the back.

Norwich have no new injury concerns and could use this match as a chance to bring Andre Wisdom and Matt Jarvis back into the fold.

Neither is likely to start having spent time on the sidelines recently, but they could make the bench and come on for some valuable minutes as they look to return to match fitness.

Norwich possible starting lineup:
Ruddy; Martin, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Tettey, O'Neil, Brady; Hoolahan; Jerome

Man City possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Sagna, Otamendi, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernandinho, Fernando, Navas, Delph, Sterling; Bony

Head To Head

Norwich have won just one of their last 11 meetings with Man City in all competitions, losing eight of those and conceding three or more goals on six occasions in that run. There was plenty of drama in the most recent clash at the Etihad in October as Cameron Jerome appeared to have rescued a point for his side, only for Yaya Toure to score an 89th-minute winner from the spot.

The Canaries have not beaten City at Carrow Road since a Division One match in 2001, which they won 2-0 with Paulo Wanchope receiving a late red card for the visitors, although their most recent meeting here ended goalless in February 2014.

They have met three times in the FA Cup before, with Man City winning twice - 5-0 in 1939 and 6-0 in 1981 - and Norwich edging the other in 1963.

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We say: Norwich 1-1 Man City

Norwich have not given the big boys an easy ride this season, particularly at Carrow Road, and with Man City's current away troubles they will be confident of causing an upset. The visitors still have plenty of quality in their side, however, and we feel that they will come away with at least a replay.

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Who will win the FA Cup third round clash between Norwich and Man City?

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Wilfred Bony reacts after missing a penalty for Man City against Sunderland on December 26, 2015
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