After a minute’s remembrance, the game gets under way. Norwich are in green and gold, Watford in a navy/purple change kit.
The teams are heading out of the tunnel. Right on cue, the rain has started falling at Carrow Road.
This isn’t the only massive game on this weekend – Liverpool are playing Manchester City on Sunday, in case you hadn’t heard.
Quique Sánchez Flores, the charismatic detective to Farke’s rugged supervillain, has made three changes to his Watford team, with José Holebas, Étienne Capoue and Will Hughes replacing Adam Masina, Nathan Chalobah and Andre Gray. Troy Deeney joins Gray on the bench, with Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra forming an unusual strike duo.
Here’s Martin Laurence on what Flores needs to do to get Watford out of trouble:
This fixture has regularly delivered goals in recent years, as Simon Burnton notes in this week’s 10 things to look out for:
“This could be a barnstorming 10-10 draw, fit to make Liverpool and Arsenal blush,” writes Bill Jones, “but only if their inability to score succumbs to their failure to keep goals out.”
Who’s this beautiful man with a lovely voice? It’s
Daniel Farke, who is positively chipper despite his team’s recent struggles.
““It’s an important game, but it’s not all over whether we win or lose,” he says. “Even after Man City, we knew there would be difficult times, and we’ve had an injury crisis.”
“In football, all topics are connected. We’ve had to be more solid in defence, but now we’re not so fluent as before, so we’ve got to find that balance. To play football with the knife between your teeth, but with a smile on your face, it’s difficult.”
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Tettey, Godfrey, Lewis; Trybull, McLean; Buendía, Stiepermann, Hernández; Pukki.
Subs: Fährmann, Byram, Vrancic, Cantwell, Drmic, Amadou, Srbeny.
Watford (3-4-1-2): Foster; Kabasele, Dawson, Cathcart; Janmaat, Capoue, Doucouré, Holebas; Hughes; Deulofeu, Pereyra.
Subs: Gomes, Mariappa, Deeney, Masina, Chalobah, Gray, Femenía.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
It’s nights like these that make you wonder how the Premier League gets away with it. The top flight’s Friday live slate rarely captures the imagination, but this clash between the league’s bottom two looks the most unappealing prospect on paper since [insert your own Brexit joke here].
That said, nobody expected a nine-goal thriller when Southampton hosted Leicester, and this early six-pointer does have the potential to be eminently watchable. Despite both being odds-on for the drop, these two teams are still capable of playing fluid, intelligent attacking football when everything clicks.
Unfortunately, both are also waist-deep in existential crises, weeks spent in the bottom three eroding their sense of identity. Watford brought in Quique Sánchez Flores to tighten up their defence, and have scored two goals in their last six league games. As for Norwich, well, they’ll always have Manchester City.
Since that statement win, Daniel Farke’s side have lost to a host of mid-table teams (Brighton, Burnley, Palace, Villa, United) without putting up much of a fight. Like his opposite number, Farke is caught between sticking to his team’s attacking ideals and buckling down for a dogfight, and is currently doing neither well.
As a result, all bets are off tonight. We might get a feast of attacking flair, or a buffet of defensive howlers. Either team could conceivably do what Leicester did, and turn what looks a tight contest into a shooting gallery. Who knows, maybe Elton or Delia will feel compelled to intervene – and maybe the Man know’s what he’s doing after all.
Kick-off: 8pm GMT. Team news and buildup to follow …