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Championship football returns this weekend.

It’s been almost a month since Swansea City last took to the field, with Russell Martin’s men playing out a 0-0 draw at Huddersfield Town on November 12. But the head coach will come up against familiar opposition this weekend as the Swans host his former club Norwich City in south Wales.

The hosts will be boosted by the availability of Ollie Cooper, Joe Allen and Ben Cabango for the visit of the Canaries following the Welsh trio’s return from World Cup duty.

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All three are expected to be in consideration for Saturday’s matchday squad while Olivier Ntcham is now back in Swansea having featured for Cameroon in Qatar.

Liam Walsh has stepped up his recovery from a ruptured Achilles and is now training on the grass having been absent since the summer. However, the midfielder is still some way off being in contention to feature, with late January currently being a realistic potential return date for the 25-year-old.

Those who were not involved in the World Cup were put through their paces in a week-long training camp in Scotland earlier on during the break. The Swans secured victories at Hearts and Dundee United in matches that gave Martin the opportunity to include fringe players including Brandon Cooper, Fin Stevens and Nathanael Ogbeta while young guns such as Ben Lloyd, Harry Jones, Joel Cotterill, Cameron Congreve and Azeem Abdulai were all handed valuable minutes on the pitch.

Michael Obafemi – who was withdrawn in the second-half of Republic of Ireland’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Norway on November 17 – and Harry Darling did not feature in either of the two fixtures as a precautionary measure having picked up minor knocks.

Martin and Matt Gill have both spoken about the benefits of the trip to Edinburgh which, from a Swans perspective, will hopefully ensure the squad is better prepared to welcome a Norwich side who are just three places and one point better off than Swansea.

“The focus has to be on what we are doing here. We had a good week in Scotland, which was really helpful,” said Martin. “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.”

Indeed, despite failing to win any of their final five games before the international break, Swansea remain firmly in the mix to attack the play-off places from the moment they return to the pitch this weekend.

Only three points separate fourth-placed Watford and 11th placed Luton Town ahead of the second tier’s full return, and it feels that, this season more than ever, a top-six place is up for grabs for many sides in the division.

Indeed, the points total required to secure a play-off spot could well be lower than the average this season.

Since the English Football League was restructured in 2004, sides finishing in sixth place in the Championship end the campaign with an average of 74 points.

As far as second place (the final automatic promotion spot) is concerned, teams taking runner-up spot end the regular season with an average tally of 87 points.

Swansea are currently four points better off than they were at the same stage last season, and with the January transfer window just around the corner, the league could well be shaken up in the New Year.

The Swans have aspirations of bolstering their squad next month while they remain eager to tie down Ryan Manning and Joel Latibeaudiere – who are both out of contract in the summer – to new deals at the Swansea.com Stadium.

But as far as the short-term is concerned, Martin will hope his troops can once again reap maximum rewards of their training ground graft to extend their impressive record of never losing either of their first two fixtures after a break since Martin arrived at the club in August 2021.

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