Norwich City-Manchester City Preview
It is not a full farewell since Manchester City are still chasing Champions League glory, but it is the end of an era of sorts at the Etihad on Sunday when talisman David Silva will play his final Premier League match for the Cityzens versus relegated Norwich City.
Part of the nucleus of the 2012 Premier League winning side that introduced the "noisy neighbours" to the European scene, the 34-year-old Silva is one of City's most decorated domestic players. The former Spain international has been part of four title-winning teams and also lifted two FA Cup and five Carabao Cup trophies since his arrival on the blue side of Manchester in 2010 from Valencia.
Perhaps more amazingly, "El Mago" - also a 2010 World Cup winner and two-time European Championship winner with La Furia Roja - only won the Premier League's Player of the Month award once during his decade with City (25-3-9). Still, the classy midfielder is leaving on his terms and content with the contributions he made in lifting the status of a once star-crossed franchise.
"I arrived here having just won the World Cup. It was a change in country, league, language and everything was quite tough, but my team-mates welcomed me and really looked after me and after a few months I settled in," he recounted Saturday during a press conference. "I have always tried to do my absolute best, to always behave well and I have tried to work very hard too. I hope that people have enjoyed my football for all of these years."
"When I look back at everything I have achieved I could never have imagined it, even in my wildest dreams."
Manager Pep Guardiola also took time to praise Silva, calling his career "extraordinary" while noting "he's alongside five or six others who made this Club what it is now. And this club will always be grateful."
Silva's impending departure means injured striker Sergio Aguero is the lone remaining link to the 2011-12 title-winning side.
Sunday's match itself is a dead rubber for both sides - the Cityzens have secured second in the table while Norwich City will finish last and return to the Championship. The biggest piece of unfinished business is Kevin De Bruyne's pursuit of Thierry Henry's single-season Premier League assist record.
The Belgium international enters the match with 19 assists and needs two to topple Henry's standard established with Arsenal in 2002-03. De Bruyne has hit 20 assists in a league season previously, doing so for Wolfsburg in the German Bundelsiga in 2014-15.
After De Bruyne was pipped for the Football Writers' Association's Footballer of the Year Award by Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, Guardiola was happy to talk about his playmaker's creative skills, with the midfielder picking up No. 19 in City's 4-0 smashing of Watford at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.
"He enjoys to make assists. I would love for Kevin to score goals but he enjoys making assists too," the gaffer noted. "I think in the last period he is enjoying taking free-kicks and penalties and taking this responsibility.
"The numbers are incredible - not just this season but also the year when we won 100 points. He was incredible and I will never forget how he played when we achieved this incredible milestone."
In a season where little has gone right for the Canaries (5-6-26) - and currently nothing has gone right for them in Project Restart with seven losses in as many matches - there will always be the happy memories of toppling the then-defending champions at Carrow Road in September.
Teemu Pukki's blistering start to top-flight life culminated in Norwich City' shock 3-2 victory over Guardiola's side, with the Finland international's goal shortly after the restart providing the two-goal cushion they bravely held as Manchester City laid siege to the goal.
The hope of top-flight survival that win provided gave way to the grim reality of trying to stay true to a Championship identity one rung higher. Norwich City's style, so aesthetically pleasing at the second tier, was picked apart in ruthless fashion in the Premier League.
The Canaries are one of 38 sides in Premier League history to ship at least 70 goals and given their form coupled with Manchester City's goal-scoring nous, ticking higher up that chart appears inevitable.
"We've been in some games; we just haven't been able to nick a draw and it's frustrating. This league is unforgiving," keeper Tim Krul told the club's official website. "It's difficult to find words if I'm honest. I think we've let ourselves down a little bit over the last few weeks, I've said it before.
"At the start of the season I definitely thought we had enough in this squad to be staying up."
Further compounding problems for Norwich City will be the absence of midfielder Emi Buendia and striker Josip Drmic, who were both sent off in their 2-0 loss to Burnley on July 18. Centre back Timm Klose will also miss out due to injury, and injured midfielder Alex Tettey is unlikely to feature.
Norwich City have never done a Premier League double over Manchester City, and their lone win in the last eight league visits to the Etihad (1-2-5) was a 3-2 triumph in 2012-13. The Cityzens did smash seven by them without reply at home in the 2013-14 campaign.
Updated July 25, 2020