PREVIEW: Norwich City v Luton Town
Hatters head to the Championship table-toppers this weekend
With 12 games of the season to go, Norwich are looking certainties to be plying their trade in the top flight again once more next season after just one year away.
They have shown their credentials from very early on in the season, leading the way since November 21, spending almost four months at the summit now.
One of their rare defeats came back at Luton in early December, but following that reverse, City went on to win five in a row, before two games without a win losing to Watford and drawing with QPR saw them move into 2021 with their top spot intact.
Few teams have been able to stop Norwich since, as even a mini blip in early February, saw them still take two points from nine with goalless draws against Middlesbrough and Millwall, eventually losing to Swansea.
Daniel Farke's side reacted in the best way possible though, putting their foot firmly on the accelerator, with six straight wins, only conceding two goals and emerged winners of the contest between the top two on Wednesday night, seeing off Brentford 1-0.
It means they are 10 points clear of their nearest rivals now, surely making it a case of when and not if they will be crowned champions.
Bees boss Thomas Frank certainly thinks so, as after the game, he said: “I want to say congratulations to Norwich City, they will get promoted.
“They won’t blow this, it is not mind games on my part, they are excellent, well done to Daniel and his coaches.
“Our performance was good enough to win many games in the Championship. But not good enough to win against the number one team.”
However, Farke himself is obviously not getting carried away, as he said: “It doesn’t matter what he says, it is not a guarantee.
"I remember some other comments that Leeds were the outstanding team last season and everyone else was playing for position two.
"Now we are 11 points clear of Leeds at the same stage, we know we are in a great position, to have 73 points at this stage is fantastic.
"We are also seven points better off than two years ago, that is outstanding but there is no guarantee the final 12 games work in our favour as well.
"We have to win some more points to achieve what we want.
“Two years ago was Norwich’s best ever season at this level and we are seven points better off.
"We want to finish as strongly as possible. We are not too far away now from 80 points and that is the first step.”
Keeping hold of their stars in the transfer window was vital for the Canaries, with Max Aarons staying put despite increasing speculation with moves away, Spanish giants Barcelona linked with his signature.
They brought in Aston Villa's Orjan Nyland and Regan Riley from Bolton Wanderers, along with defender Dimitrios Giannoulis from PAOK Salonika, who has gone on to play eight times so far.
Although Luton have had the upper hand in contests this season with two wins so far, now the Canaries are at full strength, it will be considerably harder, especially with the hosts out for revenge as Scottish international Kenny McLean said: “Luton have been a problem for us in the past.
"It's not a game we will take lightly. Brentford were second in the league before tonight but that doesn't mean we will approach the game any differently. Bring it on."
It's been a fine time for Finnish striker Teemu Pukki too, named the club's Falcon Power player of the month for February, scoring seven goals in his seven games.
Team news: The Hatters will be without centre halves Sonny Bradley (thigh) and Tom Lockyer (ankle) for the clash at Carrow Road.
For Norwich, Todd Cantwell could be back in the squad, although midfielder Marco Stiepermann and goalkeeper Orjan Nyland aren't expected to feature.
Man in the middle: David Webb - has taken 27 games so far this term, showing 70 yellows and four reds.
Was at the centre of a highly contentious penalty decision in stoppage time on Wednesday night, giving Swansea a spot-kick when Kyle Naughton clearly went to ground without being touched inside the area, as the Swans won 2-1 at Stoke City.
Has taken Luton twice this season, the most recent, sending off Bournemouth midfielder Jefferson Lerma after just 26 minutes of the Hatters' 1-0 win at the Vitality Stadium in January.
Also took Town's 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham in November.
Refereed two Luton games last term, the 1-0 defeat at home to Swansea and 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday.
Has had four more Hatters fixtures, Town winning three and drawing one, as he also dismissed Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in a 2-1 home win over Notts County.
Referee's assistants are Ian Cooper and Adrian Waters, with the fourth official Scott Simpson.
In charge: Daniel Farke – 44-year-old German, who started out as a striker with hometown club SV Steinhausen.
Spent his entire career in the lower levels of German football, before he returned to former club SV Lippstadt 08 as manager, spending six years in charge.
Stepped down with plans to take a year's sabbatical, but was appointed boss at Borussia Dortmund II, the reserve side of Borussia Dortmund.
Had two seasons at the Signal Iduna Park, before taking over as Norwich head coach in May 2017.
Won the Championship title in his second term, before suffering relegation from the Premier League, but is now destined to be a top flight manager again next season.
View from the dug-out: Daniel Farke talking to the club's official website: “To win three against one of the best sides in the league is always great.
"By winning this game, one of our biggest competitors loses, but now it’s important to be switched on for Luton.
“This is what a winning mentality means. After a massive night, a great win and everyone praising you, to be fully focused on the next task and not open the battle of champagne.
“Against Luton, we need a better type of performance to win this game.
“They have momentum and nothing to lose so it will be a difficult game.
“We’re happy with the status quo, a win, the points and everything is cool, but now we also want to win the points on the weekend.”
One to watch: Emi Buendia – 24-year-old, who was born in Argentina, was with Real Madrid as youngster, but moved to fellow Spanish side Getafe, where he started his senior career.
Had a loan spell at Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa, snapped up by Norwich City in June 2018 for £1.4m.
Scored eight goals in the club's rise from the Championship to the Premier League, but only netted one goal in the top flight.
Has been back among the goals this term though, reaching double figures when netting the winner against Brentford on Wednesday night.
Friendly faces: Luton's head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes came through the ranks at Carrow Road, playing over 100 games for the Canaries during his six years.
Headed to Luton for £60,000 in July 2001,scoring 20 goals in 79 games for the Hatters, before moving to Swansea on a free transfer.
When Forbes hung up his boots in 2010, he returned to Norwich working in the academy until he moved to Luton once more in the summer of 2019.
City defender Max Aarons began his career in the youth set-up at Kenilworth Road, moving to join Norwich City's academy in 2016.
Racked up his century of appearance for the Canaries this season, while has also played for both England U19s and U21s.
Young defender Akin Famewo came through the ranks at Luton playing 14 times.
Left for Norwich for an undisclosed fee in January 2019 and had a loan move to St Mirren.
Made his Premier League debut for the Canaries in the final minutes of the 5-0 final day defeat at Manchester City last term, while joined Charlton on loan in September and has played 12 games for the Addicks this season.
Played for both: Cameron McGeehan – 25-year-old midfielder began his youth career at Fulham, before moving to Chelsea and then Norwich City, captaining the Canaries to an FA Youth Cup victory over the Blues.
Joined Luton on loan in 2014, helping the club win promotion to the Football League, before moving to Cambridge on a temporary basis, rejoining the Hatters in February 2015.
Made his move to Kenilworth Road permanent a few months later, as he scored 31 goals in 106 games throughout his time with the club, going to Barnsley for an undisclosed fee in 2017.
Loans at Scunthorpe and Portsmouth followed, before left Oakwell this summer, signing for Belgian club Oostende and has made 20 appearances, scoring three goals.
We've got form: Luton's trips to Norwich have usually been a pretty miserable experience over the years.
They started with a 1-1 draw in the Southern League back on December 2, 1905, before a first victory in 1907, triumphing 1-0.
The less said about the next, a 6-1 defeat, the better while they also suffered 6-0 and 5-1 losses as when Division Three South games came around, Town then won their first two fixtures in the early 1920s.
Luton went on lengthy winless run of 11 games until a 4-0 Division Two success in in 1938, a scoreline they also managed in 1961 as well.
Goals from Raddy Antic, Steve White and Brian Stein saw Town with a rare 3-2 win in December 1981 as since then, victories have been few and far between, although Lars Elstrup did notch a hat-trick in a 3-1 success in September 1990.
Luton's last league success came in Division One during 1996, when Bontcho Guentchev netted from the penalty spot, beaten in their previous two trips.
In total, Town have played 45 games at City, winning nine, drawing 12 and suffering 24 defeats, scoring 51 goals and conceding 87 goals.
Last time out: Luton enjoyed a famous 1-0 FA Cup fourth round win at Carrow Road in their last visit on January 26, 2013, a game that Town fans will never forget.
Managed by Paul Buckle, with the Hatters in the Conference, they went to the Canaries, then a Premier League side, and containing on-loan Spurs striker Harry Kane, and came out on top.
All three substitutes combined for the winner, with Stuart Fleetwood finding JJ O'Donnell who crossed for Scott Rendall to score with just 10 minutes to go and send the visiting Luton faithful into ecstasy.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor, Janos Kovacs, Ronnie Henry, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw (Scott Rendell 74), Jake Howells, Arnaud Mendy (JJ O'Donnell 68), Jonathan Smith, Andre Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 75).
Subs not used: Dean Brill, James Dance, Matt Robinson, Adam Watkins.
Referee: Andre Marriner.