Warhorses, the loan conundrum and handling a cauldron of abuse - the big Ipswich Town questions ahead of Norwich clash
PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:52 07 February 2019
Ipswich Town head to Norwich on Sunday looking for their first win over the Canaries since 2009. ANDY WARREN looks at the big questions ahead of the game.
Will Town have their two warhorses?
The Blues are hopeful both James Collins and captain Luke Chambers will be fit in time for Sunday’s game.
The duo missed the 1-0 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday due to hamstring and foot injuries respectively, both suffered at Aston Villa, but boss Paul Lambert is hopeful of being able to call on the veterans.
Matthew Pennington and Toto Nsiala defended well for the majority of Saturday’s loss to the Owls, but there is no substitute for the experience of Chambers and Collins, at a time when the Blues lack leadership in many areas of the pitch.
Who misses out?
Assuming both Chambers and Collins are good to go at Carrow Road, Lambert will have some big selection calls to make.
Will James Bree continue at right-back or does Pennington, who has not let the Blues down in that position but is very much a central defender, revert to the right side of the Ipswich defence?
Has Myles Kenlock done enough to retain the left-back position despite his error in the Wednesday loss, or does Callum Elder return? Both have shown ability and raw moments over the last month.
Or is there any possibility of a return for Jonas Knudsen, exiled from the first-team since Boxing Day with his immediate future in doubt? He certainly rises to the occasion on derby day.
Lambert will need to leave one of his six loanees out of the matchday squad, given he’s only allowed to use five in any given game, and it’s likely to be one of Pennington, Bree and Elder.
Trevoh Chalobah showed enough in his 15-minute appearance on Saturday to suggest he adds a different dimension to the Ipswich midfield, while Will Keane and Collin Quaner are certain to be involved one way or another.
Keane has recently stated his belief that he and Quaner can form a potent strike partnership, but the two have not been on the pitch at the same time since the drab loss at Blackburn on January 19.
Keane struggled from the start before making way for a good Quaner display at Aston Villa, while the complete opposite happened against the Owls.
Two up front has not been on Lambert’s agenda since his arrival but, with Keane playing the No.10 role behind Quaner in the games with Rotherham and Blackburn, there were signs of something brewing.
A return to that 4-2-3-1 system would mean Alan Judge would remain in a wide role and two deep-lying central midfielders, while Lambert’s favoured 4-3-3 would likely mean one of Quaner and Keane sitting out again.
Or would Ellis Harrison, who has shown some bright moments since his return from injury at the of November, offer a better outlet?
Whatever side Lambert puts out this weekend, it will bare no resemblance to the Ipswich team that took to the field for the start of the 1-1 draw between these two teams in September.
It’s entirely possible that, depending on the fitness of Chambers, there will be only two survivors from Paul Hurst’s only derby team – Pennington and Cole Skuse.
It’s entirely possible that more than half of the Ipswich Town 18 on Saturday will be experiencing a Carrow Road derby for the first time.
The likes of Collins, Quaner and Judge are used to such big games and have played on big stages before, while Pennington has played and scored against Liverpool at Anfield while playing in Everton blue.
But there are others for whom the Carrow Road atmosphere will be an entirely new experience, bringing a new level of pressure.
Even the old guard, who have been there many times before, may be on the receiving end of something new.
Skuse has admitted his side must stand up in the face of additional taunting due to the respective league positions of the two sides, while Paul Lambert’s return to Norfolk in charge of Ipswich is likely to bring a whole new edge to the East Anglian Derby.
Promotion chasers against relegation fodder is how this one will be billed to those neutrals tuning in to watch this game, with the Blues facing an uphill task to win the battle on the pitch.
How they cope with everything surrounding the game may well hold the key to whether they have any chance at all in the fight.
Can the Canaries cope with the pressure?
If this weekend’s opponents were any team other than Ipswich Town, Daniel Farke’s men would be expected to swat aside the team sitting eight points adrift of safety (that gap could be 11 by kick-off) with consummate ease.
They are of course still heavy favourites for this game but, while the Canaries are nearing a decade of dominance in this fixture dating back to Ipswich’s last win in 2009, sport has shown us time and again just how heavily the weight of expectation can hang.
In what could well end up being the last meeting between these two old rivals for a while, Norwich will have to play through the pressure to perform while not getting caught up in the circus surrounding Lambert’s return.
If they let their standards drop, that’s when Ipswich must seize their chance.