Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers says Dean Smith “will give everything” to guide Norwich City back to the Premier League.
The Canaries will return to the Championship next season after relegation was confirmed following a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa almost two weeks ago. A 4-0 drubbing at home to West Ham United followed, but Leicester boss Rodgers is not getting complacent ahead of Norwich’s visit to the King Power Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Foxes are looking to bounce back from a poor run of form themselves, heading into Wednesday’s clash without a win in five Premier League games. Leicester have fallen short of expectations this season as they currently sit 14th in the table.
A clash against bottom-club Norwich would be seen as the perfect opportunity to get back on track for a top-half finish but Rodgers has warned that there are no easy games in the Premier League. “There never is. It’s always a tough game.” said Rodgers during his pre-match press conference.
“Dean [Smith], I’m 100 per cent sure he will be getting [Norwich] ready for promotion for next year. He’s a fantastic manager with really good experience. He will go into the Championship, he knows how to get promoted out of there and he will give everything to be able to do that.
“But in the meantime, for us tomorrow, they have some good players. They bossed the game away to Man United. They can play with freedom.
“If we want three points, we have to show the hunger we have shown in games in terms of defending, which has been good, but from a set-piece static position that’s where our concentrations needs to be. If we can do that we have players who can score goals.”
James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, and James Justin could all come back into the Leicester City side as they look to earn their first victory in eight games against Norwich.
Maddison missed the defeat to Everton with a hamstring injury while Justin was absent after his shoulder popped out in Rome. Vardy was only a substitute, the striker rested after completing his first 90 minutes of 2022 in the Italian capital. But all three are fit and available and could get places in the starting line-up on Wednesday night, where victory will take City back into the top 10.
The biggest debate is over which formation City go for. Having settled on a 4-1-4-1 system for a few months, Brendan Rodgers has reintroduced the 3-5-2 in the past couple of games and started with it on Sunday. The change was to get an extra centre-back in and add to the height in the team, but it helped up front in the first half too, with Patson Daka much more threatening as part of a strike pairing.
Justin, Maddison, and Vardy could easily slot into that system. For Justin, he would come in as a left-sided wing-back, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall moving back into the middle, Ayoze Perez dropping out. Maddison would also play in one of the three midfield roles, and that might see Papy Mendy make way, with Youri Tielemans sitting a little deeper. Against a relegated Norwich side, in a match where City are expected to have a lot of the ball, Rodgers may not feel an out-and-out defensive midfielder is not necessary.
Vardy could then come in up front and play alongside either Daka or Kelechi Iheanacho, as he has done on a couple of occasions this season. Iheanacho seems a more likely partner for the number nine, with the Nigerian better in tight areas against a potentially deep-lying defence.
In this system, the only other debate would be whether to have Daniel Amartey or Caglar Soyuncu as part of the back three. If Soyuncu was brought in, Jonny Evans would move to the middle of the three, with Wesley Fofana then on the right, giving the Frenchman more scope to carry the ball out from the back. However, as the central man against Everton, he proved a formidable last line of defence.
If Rodgers was to revert to his 4-1-4-1 shape, the big decisions would come in midfield and on the wing. If the manager wanted Maddison central, then one of Mendy, Tielemans, or Dewsbury-Hall would have to drop out, albeit City’s number 10 has played wide right often. Then it would be a case of choosing who to play on the left, with Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman the main contenders.
Possible City line-up (3-5-2): Schmeichel; Amartey, Fofana, Evans; Castagne, Maddison, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Justin; Iheanacho, Vardy. Possible City line-up (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Castagne, Fofana, Evans, Justin; Mendy; Maddison, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes; Vardy.