Norwich City Head Coach Daniel Farke says his side will be on more of a level playing field with Aston Villa ahead of Boxing Day’s Premier League clash at Villa Park.
When the two sides met at Carrow Road in October, Dean Smith’s men emerged 5-1 victors, but Farke insists the score-line flattered the visitors, while pointing to City’s injury crisis as one of the result’s contributing factors.
“It was a strange game against Villa earlier in the season,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “It didn’t feel like we were too far away from a good result. We just weren’t competitive because of all the injuries we had. We’re in a better position now.
“We’re still not the favourite in this game. They have top-class players, but we are definitely competitive, as we showed in recent weeks.
“The Premier League is always a close competition and it’s difficult for every team to win points. Some good sides can struggle. Everton were involved in the relegation battle, which is unbelievable considering the quality of their players. Small details can make a big difference.
“You can quickly be gaining momentum with two or three good results in a row so that’s what we’re hoping for.
“Each game is big on this level, so I wouldn’t over interpret it too much. Villa are a bit under pressure having lost their last four Premier League games after spending £150million in the summer. You’d have expected them to be in a better position.
“We are where people expect us to be but we’ll keep on fighting against it. It’s important for both sides but makes no sense to speculate who’s under more pressure. It’s always good to be playing for something.”
Looking back to the weekend’s defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Farke felt the outcome had an all-too-familiar feeling of unjust about it, given the quality of City’s performance.
“We were all unbelievably disappointed after the Wolves match because it was an important game for us,” he added. “We played some fantastic football and on a good day we’d come in at half-time 5-0 or 6-0 up, maybe 4-0 or 3-0 on a normal day. To be just 1-0 up was more or less a joke. We lost the game when we had 12 or 13 really big chances and Wolves were able to score with two out of their three.
“This happens in football. It’s one of those games and sometimes the opponents can’t explain why they won the game and we can’t explain why we lost. This happens when you’re fighting for titles, in mid-table, or when you’re in the relegation positions.
“We have to make sure we don’t lose trust or confidence because it can feel like quicksand with everyone against you. We have to show a strong mentality, to calm the nerves down and speak about it in a neutral and objective way.
“Performance-wise, we had two top class games against Leicester City and Wolves. No team created more chances against Wolves than we did this season. To get just one point out of those games feels strange. We drew against Arsenal and didn’t expect to come out of the Sheffield United game with no points.
“You can have turning points in life and then there’s another setback even if you don’t deserve it. To gain momentum is important.”
Once the festivities are taken care of, the January transfer window will be just around the corner, and while City might not be in a position to break the bank on incoming players, there should be no fears of key players leaving the club, according to Farke.
“Stuart Webber and I speak every day about the future of the squad and the January transfer window, but our hands are tied a bit,” he explained. “It’s more expensive and difficult in January but we’ll stay awake to the options and if there’s a chance to do business, not out of panic buying, we will try to.
“We have a few injury problems at centre-back but have lots of competition in all the others. I don’t expect us to do much business, but we won’t fall asleep.
“It’s a good sign if clubs are interested in our players because it means we’re doing things the right way, improving our players and the value of them. I’m more relaxed than in previous transfer windows because we’re not under the same financial pressure to accept offers. We can’t afford top-class players, but we don’t have to sell the ones we have.”