Preview | Swansea City v Norwich City
Swansea City will look to hit the ground running when they return to Championship action against fellow promotion hopefuls Norwich City this afternoon (3pm).
The Swans produced an excellent run of 22 points from 12 games to pull themselves up the table between the September and November international breaks, and they resume the season sitting eighth in the standings, but on the same number of points as the play-off spots.
The Canaries had more of a mixed time before the World Cup break, but they remain a well-resourced squad stacked with players with Premier League experience.
But the Swans – and head coach and former Canary Russell Martin – will feel confident given they are unbeaten in five on home soil and were buoyed by a positive training camp in Scotland.
Swansea boss Martin has his World Cup contingent back and in contention for selection.
Joe Allen, Ben Cabango, Ollie Cooper and Olivier Ntcham have all returned to training following their exploits in Qatar with Wales and Cameroon respectively.
Liam Walsh is the only long-term absentee, although the midfielder is making good progress in his recovery from an Achilles injury.
Russell Martin: “I loved my time at Norwich, and I love some of the people there that I had great relationships with, but that chapter of my life is done.
“My kids were born in Norwich, we really enjoyed living there, but the day you leave you have to accept it is done. Nothing stops because you leave, you realise that very quickly.
“I loved my time there, and I will never be anything other than grateful for the time I had there. I will look forward to seeing the people I know but that is as far as it goes.
“The focus has to be on what we are doing here. We had a good week in Scotland, which was really helpful.
“We are in a good place. We love the group we are working with here and what they are giving us.
“They are showing that courage and willingness to run for each other and to play. The group is growing all the time.
“We are trying to work on solutions to new problems we face, we are clear in what we want and how we are trying to achieve what we want to achieve and the challenge is to transfer that work from the training pitch into the performance against Norwich.”
Dean Smith: "Swansea are a good challenge for us, a footballing team like ourselves. It's always a tough place to go, Swansea. But, it's a reset that everyone's had and we've reflected and improved, hopefully we'll see that tomorrow.
"I don't really know Russell (Martin) at all. I know Matt Gill who is working with him, he was my first ever signing. He's one who has reached out during his coaching career for advice.
"There's 25 games left, we're still not at the halfway stage. We're in a decent position, we'd like to be in a better one. We're going to take it game by game and if we get a win this Saturday, that'll be a big boost."
Remember the last time?
Goals from Andre Ayew and Conor Hourihane saw Swansea City return to second in the Championship table and close to within two points of leaders Norwich by beating the Canaries on their last visit to SA1.
At the end of an even first-half Ayew netted his ninth goal of the season as he turned and coolly finished from close range after Norwich had failed to deal with a set-piece.
Hourihane then scored for the third game in a row with a superb strike early in the second half, with the Swans then defending resolutely to collect a 15th clean sheet of the Championship season.
As well as being two points off the Canaries, the Swans also had a game in hand and are 10 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Additionally, they were a dozen games without defeat in SA1.
0 - Swansea have never lost either of their first two games after an international break under Russell Mattin.
5 – All of Swansea’s five most-recent victories over Norwich have come on home turf, with the Swans victorious in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2021. In those wins, Swansea scored 11 goals and conceded one.