Bristol City gets injury boost ahead of Norwich trip.
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Bristol City gets injury boost ahead of Norwich trip.

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Rob Dickie is close to returning to the Bristol City starting XI, while Liam Manning has also praised George Tanner’s contribution this season.

Liam Manning is hopeful Rob Dickie will be fit to return to the Bristol City squad for this Saturday’s trip to Norwich City, as the centre-back is set to begin training at the High Performance Centre on Monday after missing the Robins’ previous three games.

Dickie has missed games against Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers, and Huddersfield Town due to a calf injury sustained at Plymouth Argyle on Easter Monday, and Manning has revealed that the defender has also been dealing with illness and shingles, but if he completes the Failand sessions, he should return to the matchday squad at Carrow Road.

Dickie’s inclusion in the squad comes at a good time, as Zak Vyner’s knee injury is expected to keep him out for about two weeks, and Rob Atkinson and Kal Naismith have been ruled out for the rest of the season, leaving Manning with the possibility of having no fit senior specialist centre-backs for the remaining three matches of 2023/24.

The 28-year-old has been a regular and trustworthy presence in the heart of the Robins’ defence this season, with the exception of a brief period in late August and early September when he was suspended. He was signed from QPR last summer and is the favourite to win City’s Player of the Season award.

Norwich’s 76 goals make them the Championship’s joint fourth-highest scorers, and the Canaries have one of the league’s most productive attackers in American international Josh Sargent, who has 15 goals in 23 games.

“He was out on the grass on Friday but the fact he’s done one session (meant he was left out against Huddersfield), because he’s had shingles and he was ill the day before Leicester, he’s done hardly anything in the last four weeks so I expect him to train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then be available for the weekend,” Manning said of Dickie.

With Vyner and Dickie ruled out of the match against Huddersfield Town on Saturday, George Tanner was forced to anchor the back three for the first time in his career. The 24-year-old, along with fellow full-backs Ross McCrorie and Haydon Roberts, were brilliant in repelling the Terriers, and despite City conceding for the first time since March 16, Manning was pleased with Tanner’s performance.

The versatile defender has improved his consistency, but Manning believes it is due to a boost in confidence, which should be high given his performance against Huddersfield’s Delano Burgzorg, whose physical danger made for a continual tussle.

“I love him, I think he’s been great, I think he’s done terrifically well,” she said. “You look back at some of the games, and he’s played against some of the top wingers in the league and done an excellent job. Against Sunderland recently, I thought he did an excellent job of keeping Jack Clarke quiet.

“(Delano) Burgzorg, their striker, is a real handful; he runs well, is swift, and strong, and he did an excellent job of beating him in certain duels, and he’s getting better all the time. When I look throughout the team, I see players who are improving. As I’ve previously stated, learning and improving does not follow a straight line; rather, it is an up and down process.

“We’ve talked a few times recently about his confidence, believe in himself, and boldness with the ball, since we know how good he is defensively. He’s also technically great; he has tremendous quality. It’s probably more about decision-making now. I’ve been quite delighted with him; he’s been a huge plus for us.”

City’s limited defensive resources appear to have driven them to recall Under-21 centre-back Raphael Araoye from Weston-super-Mare ahead of schedule. The 19-year-old joined the National League South side in January and has made 15 appearances, but he will spend the 2023/24 season back in Bristol due to injury difficulties in that part of the field.

Araoye’s U21 centre-back partner Jamie Knight-Lebel has been a regular in matchday squads for the majority of the season, and after making two substitute appearances this term, he was handed his home debut against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday, coming on for the final five minutes, with his previous two first-team appearances at Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest,

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