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First team

Fit-again Smith closing in on return

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe revealed Adam Smith was closing in on a return to first-team action after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Smith has been sidelined for seven weeks since being forced off during the Cherries’ 3-1 defeat by Premier League rivals Leicester at King Power Stadium.

But the versatile 28-year-old has returned to full training and could be in contention when Howe’s team host Norwich at Vitality Stadium tomorrow (3pm kick-off).

Giving an update at his pre-match press conference this morning, Howe said he had “a couple of slight concerns” after a number of his players had returned from international duty.

The visit of the Canaries will definitely come too soon for long-term injury victims David Brooks (ankle), Dan Gosling (hip) and Junior Stanislas (hamstring).

Asked how his players had returned following the international break, Howe replied: “We have a couple of slight concerns but, in the main, when you lose your players for that period of time and you have games ahead, you’re always slightly fearful how they are going to come back but we can be relatively pleased.”

And asked for his team news, Howe added: “We’re pretty much as we were. Adam Smith is getting closer, David Brooks is still some way away, as are Dan Gosling and Junior Stanislas. But the rest are pretty much there.

“Adam has trained. We’ve had to take our time with his hamstring injury. It wasn’t an absolute clear low-grade strain so we had to be careful with him. We’ve taken our time with him so he’s close.

“David Brooks is at the stage where we’re building his fitness. We haven’t seen him in training but we’re building that endurance that he needs and that’s the process he’s going through.

“I wouldn’t say he’s particularly enjoying it because it’s really hard work but, once he gets back on the grass, that’s when he’ll have a big smile on his face. He’ll be kicking a ball again so he’s doing some hard yards at the moment but he’s not too far away.”

Norwich, promoted as winners of the Championship, arrive in Dorset looking to end a run of three successive defeats in the Premier League.

In their first five games, Daniel Farke’s team faced Champions League winners Liverpool, Europa League victors Chelsea and Premier League champions Manchester City.

And despite pulling off a superb 3-2 win over Pep Guardiola’s team last month, the Canaries have slipped to second-bottom following defeats by Burnley (2-0), Crystal Palace (2-0) and Aston Villa (5-1).

Howe, asked how he felt Norwich had approached their Premier League campaign, said: “They have approached the Premier League in a Norwich City fashion under Daniel.

“I think they’ve been really impressive. I watched their first game against Liverpool. I thought they did really well. They were beaten but they did really well in the game and I admire any team that has a clear philosophy and sticks with it.

“They are a very attacking team, a brave team and have good technical players. The fact they beat Manchester City shows their capabilities and we know we’re going to have to be very good in this game in all aspects of our play because they are a dangerous team.”

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