City boss Paul Lambert insists there will be no change attitude-wise ahead of this weekend’s home clash with fellow Premiership new-boys QPR – Norwich will go out to win a game of football.
As they always do. Be it for Arsenal (h) or Manchester City (a) – nothing changes.
“It’s a really tough game,” insisted the Canary chief, with Neil Warnock’s return to Norfolk coming sandwiched between dates with Arsenal at home and Manchester City away.
With the very best will in the world, the trip to Manchester in eight days time looks ‘tricky’. As was keeping Robin van Persie under wraps in and around the penalty area. As Borussia Dortmund discovered again in mid-week.
Which therefore finds many thinking that opportunity has to knock against Rangers after the Canaries managed not only to keep a clean sheet against Warnock’s Londoners last season, but actually inflicted a rare defeat for QPR on the road with Russell Martin’s 1-0 win at Carrow Road.
A repeat of both performance and score-line tomorrow will suit everyone at this end of the A11 – even if it is a much-changed Rangers outfit that arrives overnight. J Barton, included.
“We had two, tough games against them last year and if we win it, we can go above them,” said Lambert, speaking at Colney this morning ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
“And we’re at home. And I always think that home advantage is vital to us and we’ll look to try and we’ll try everything we can to win.”
But it was no different from facing a trip to Anfield or Old Trafford; the mind-set would remain the same. That said, in the mini-league for the ‘merely mortal’, it is crucial that you rip points out of their hands when such opportunities knocked. Points nicked away at Liverpool are mere silver lining.
“Listen, we want to win every game that we play in,” said Lambert. “But I also know the importance of winning those games against those round about you.
“And there is nothing in it – that’s how hard and tough it is. You can’t relax for one second.”
Lambert would not, however, be looking at them in the light of their Championship past; Warnock has been busy with his cheque book this summer and they are a distinctly different beast to the Class of 2010-11 who won that Championship title with such relative comfort.
“I think they’re strengthened really well,” said Lambert, with no new injury worries ahead of this weekend’s latest Premiership clash.
“The players that they have brought in are very good – but, as I say, we will do our best to beat them. And, of course, they won the league that we were in last season, so I’m under no illusions as to how hard it is going to be.”
“We had two hard games against them last season and I’m pretty sure this one will be no different.”
City’s own recruitment drive hasn’t exactly been bad – Steve Morison made it three in three with his opener against the Gunners last weekend, while Anthony Pilkington’s arrival in the top flight has now found the Canary winger linked to a £5 million switch to Liverpool as the rumour winds up early ahead of the January transfer window.
Lambert – unlike one or two of his predecessors – appeared to have little or no axe to grind with Warnock.
“Everywhere that Neil’s went, he’s done brilliant,” said Lambert, with the latest Rangers board at least giving Warnock the chance to prove his worth in the top flight.
As for the lessons learned from that 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal, Lambert was very straight-forward in his assessment. They were just a better side with better players. End of.
“They are a top side – there is no point in comparing us to Arsenal,” he said. “We were always in the game even at 2-1 down, but they are on a different level from us.
“You’ve got to be realistic – they are a top, top side that have just qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. And I’m pretty sure they will be close again this year.”
A behind-doors reserve team fixture this week found both Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala coming through unscathed after their recent lay-offs. Lambert, however, insisted that both centre-halves would need at least another game under their belt before coming back into first team contention.
All of which will leave him with decisions to make in a tactical sense as opposed to a fitness one; stick with the one up top or let Grant Holt start alongside him and ruffle Warnock’s feathers again – just as he did in that 1-0 home success last season.