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Match Previews

Ask the Expert: Bristol City (A)

30 October 2020

Norwich City face Bristol City on Saturday for a Sky Bet Championship fixture between two sides competing at the top end.

Ahead of the game, spoke to Gregor MacGregor, sports journalist for Bristol Live, to learn more about the Robins season so far, injury dilemma, and approach for this weekend. After winning their first four games of the season, Bristol City are now without a win in their last four. How would you sum up the start to the season?

GM: I’d sum it up as promising, however supporters are a little bit concerned because of the recent form and because in the last few years Bristol City have had a pretty good start to the season. In fact, after seven games they had exactly the same points last year.

They were riding high in the Championship, but in the last few seasons it’s sort of all fallen away. When it gets to crunch time later in the year after New Year, they haven’t been able to maintain the early form and slipped out of top six contention, which is their ambition.

bristol wide.jpg They finished 12th last year and have gone between the second and third tiers in recent years, but it seems the ambition remains to get promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

GM: Absolutely, that’s what the owners are striving for. They’ve spent a lot of money behind-the-scenes in terms of renovating Ashton Gate and it’s a really fantastic stadium; one of the best in the Championship without doubt.

They’ve got a new training ground on the way that’s going to be opening in Spring and that’s going to be a top of the range facility as well.

With world-class facilities to train in, they can bring their academy on site, which they haven’t been able to do previously.

Basically, the club is all geared up for playing in the Premier League but they just haven’t been able to get the results quite right on the pitch.

Two years ago, they were pretty close. They went down to the very last game of the season still in contention for sixth and they finished eighth in the end.

ashton gate.jpg

They’ve been in the mix for a couple of years now but haven’t been able to make that jump into the upper echelons at the end of the year. They lost 1-0 to AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday. Were there good signs in that game, considering the Cherries are tipped to be up there by the end of the season?

GM: Yeah, there were actually. As you say, they haven’t won in four games, but that was their best performance of the four.

They’ve had two really disappointing home performances of late against Middlesbrough and Swansea City, where they didn’t deserve much and didn’t get very much.

Against Bournemouth, they were excellent and actually deserved more than they got. They certainly were worthy of a point at least and had four excellent chances in the first half. If they’d taken one of those, they’d probably have got at least a draw.

There wasn’t a whole lot between the two sides and Bournemouth probably just edged it because they’ve got a little bit more quality up front. That was the difference on the day.

bristol v afcb.jpg Who would you say are the most dangerous players from the Robins? Nahki Wells has been scoring a few.

GM: It’s a bit of a difficult one actually because they haven’t got anyone who really stands out. They’ve rotated their squad, which kind of bodes well across the season because they’ve got the numbers there.

Their main two guys have been Wells and former Norwich man Chris Martin, who’s been excellent since he arrived in the summer on a free transfer. He’s still equal at the top of the assists chart in the Championship at the moment.

He’s not scored in the league yet but he has in the Carabao Cup. He’s not been starting the last couple of games because they’ve had to rotate things with the matches coming in quick succession, but those two are probably the first-choice frontmen in a 3-5-2 formation.

They’ve combined really well and look like they’ve got a good relationship, however it could be that Famara Diedhiou or Antoine Semenyo start up front, although those two guys started in midweek, so it might well be Wells and Martin. Andreas Weimann and Alfie Mawson are injured. Are they going to be big misses?

andreas weimann.jpg

GM: Absolutely huge. The big story of this week has been that Andy Weimann is ruled out for the season. He’s got an ACL injury that he picked up last weekend against Swansea City, so he’s out for eight or nine months.

He probably is their most consistent player and the first name on the team sheet each week. He’s a big presence in the dressing room, so his loss is huge.

Unfortunately, it is a good time to play Bristol City at the moment. I’ve seen that Norwich have got some injury problems, and I think Bristol City and Norwich have got the most problems in the league at the moment.

Bristol City have got six senior players out - four of them probably first-team players. Mawson is a big miss at the back. Nathan Baker has been out for a long time and would be first team as well.

Joe Williams, who signed in the summer, hasn’t been able to play yet, but he’s out as well, as well as Liam Walsh and Steven Sessegnon. In terms of this weekend, how do you think Bristol City will approach the game?

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GM: Dean Holden has vowed to be on the front foot and attack every side and he has done that so far, so I don’t think it will be any different. They will go for it. They play a 3-5-2 week in, week out.

If they had one more centre-back injury, it would be square pegs in round holes, so the team is settled for the weekend because they simply don’t have anybody else.

I think they’re down to 18 fit outfield players, so a little bit stretched, but they’ll attack and go for it. There won’t be any sitting back at all. They’ll take the game to Norwich, and I don’t know if that will suit Norwich or not.

They’ve been able to give everybody a good game so far so I think they’ll be able to pose Norwich a few problems. My worry would be keeping the Canaries out.

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