Swans boss Brendan Rodgers didn’t quite use the words ‘now’ or ‘never’ ahead of this evening’s huge clash at The Liberty Stadium.
But as fourth-placed Swansea prepared to play host to both the Sky Sports cameras and Paul Lambert’s second-placed Canaries – not to mention 2,000 travelling City fans in full party mode – so the former Reading and Watford chief knew the pressure was on the home side to deliver.
Defeat and the Norfolk side would have a seven-point cushion on their South Wales rivals going into the final six games of the season.
Victory and not only would the Canaries face the fight of their lives to prise that second automatic promotion spot out of the Swans’ hands, but it would equally keep the pressure on Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds squeezed into third after Swansea lost 2-1 at Preston North End last weekend. Today they travel to Doncaster Rovers on another big, big weekend of nPower Championship football.
“The worst-case scenario would put us seven points behind Norwich if we lost to them this weekend,” Rodgers admitted to his local newspaper.
“You never stop fighting, but the reality is clawing that back would be a big ask.”
The hope from a Norfolk point of view would be that with just 18 points left to play for after today’s round of games, a seven-point cushion would be enough to knock Swansea out of the running for that second spot.
For given the Canaries run of form of late, top it with victory at The Liberty and it would take a huge collapse in form and fortune for Lambert and Co to be denied a second automatic promotion in as many seasons.
Rodgers is already looking to the alternative – a top six finish, as opposed to the top two.
“Taking away the top two, the objective is to make sure we’re in the play-offs. Once you consolidate that you can think beyond it, but we can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves.
“We’re in a great position, even though our last run of games hasn’t been ideal. We want to get back to that ruthless simplicity that we’ve had for the majority of the season,” Rodgers told the icWales website.
“The comforting factor is that when we’ve been asked to step up to the plate in the big games that’s what we’ve done. Nottingham Forest and Leeds were terrific performances and we have a game against another tough opponent.
“Our task is still what it was, we just made it a little bit harder last weekend.”
For Lambert, the task was quite simple – to go for the win; to put yourself on the front foot and stay there. Going into The Liberty looking to just nick a point is not in the manager’s DNA.
“We won’t be going for a draw,” Lambert told the Eastern Daily Press ahead of today’s telling promotion clash.
“That doesn’t enter my head. What does enter my head is that if you can’t win the game then make sure you don’t lose it. Even if it got to the lost ten or 15 minutes and we are drawing I would still look to go and win the game.”
It is a mentality that has served the Canaries very well this season – they still boast one of the best away records in the division.
Because they don’t sit back and wait for the opposition to attack – they get their revenge in first.
“You have to go with that mindset, no matter what stage of the game,” said Lambert.
“If it doesn’t happen, then make sure you don’t lose it. If it doesn’t go for us then we are still second in the table, but if you win then it gives you an even bigger bit of daylight.”
The City chief can go into battle with pretty much fully-fit squad to select from now that Chrissy Martin is back in training – albeit way short of match fitness.
Wes Hoolahan is, however, a ‘doubt’ after picking up a hamstring knock in that demolition of Scunthorpe United.
Should he not be risked with a trip to The Liberty, Simeon Jackson could be rewarded for his 20-minute hat-trick alongside skipper Grant Holt with the on-loan Spaniard Dani Pacheco dropping back into the Hoolahan role.
Or, alternatively, Henri Lansbury could do the Wes bit, Pacheco continue up front and Jackson be forced to wait for his moment on the bench.
All of which merely underlines the level – and quality – of alternatives now at Lambert’s disposal.
All seems set very fair – weather included – for another big day in Norwich’s promotion push.
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