Forget FA Cup romance, Alex Neil targets Premier League fringe benefits against Manchester City

07:30 09 January 2016

Norwich City

Norwich City's Premier League return agaisnt Manchester City has been switched for live television coverage. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Alex Neil is no FA Cup romantic but the Norwich City boss can see the fringe benefits of progress in the world famous cup competition.

Much of the Scot’s planning has reflected the upcoming Premier League trips to Stoke City and Bournemouth, although Neil is keen to retain the Carrow Road fear factor for visiting sides.

“We want to try and build on the fact we are five unbeaten at home,” he said. “Manchester City’s away form isn’t great so there is no reason we can’t go and win it. Having this cup game now allows the players to enjoy it and really attack it. There is no pressure, in terms of fighting for three points, and that is pretty much what I will be telling them before the game. We want to advance in the cup but go and enjoy it, go and play, go and be aggressive and show them what you have got. There will be certainly less pressure than of late.

“We’ll select a team that is capable of winning the game. I can appreciate the fans would love a run but if I was to stay to them, ‘What would you prefer, staying in the league or beating Man City in the cup?’ I am pretty sure they would want to retain their league position. I appreciate the fact they want a cup run, and so do we, but I have to do what is best for the club. The one thing about the FA Cup is it’s a one-off, knockout competition. You just need to play well on the day.”

Neil understands the traditional attachment and affection many feel towards the FA Cup.

“Cup games are not the be all and end all, certainly at this stage of the competition, because the league is more important and I am not going to apologise for saying that. That is the truth,” he said. “When we were challenging at the top of the Championship last season if I’d had an FA Cup tie I would have seen it in exactly the same way. Every time you go on the pitch you want to win, but maybe the teams in the bottom 10 of the Premier League see it exactly the same way. Perhaps if you are lower down the leagues and you get a big draw you see it as potential for a scalp.”

Neil is pledging to avoid wholesale changes but one constant from City’s battling 2-1 Premier League defeat at the Etihad in October could be the tactical approach, which saw the Canaries deploy three centre-backs for the first time under him.

“There are certain ways I would set up against certain opposition and if you look at Manchester City, on a number of occasions, they end up playing with four up front so if you go four at the back you are literally man for man at times,” he said. “That is why we occupied that area of the pitch with the sweeper to give us that overload at the back when we went there. It is certainly something that has come into my thinking.

“We gave a good account of ourselves and it was a game we should really have taken something from. Not to see that out was disappointing. I don’t think I have ever thrown a completely neutral 11 in, mostly it is four, five, six changes to go around some guys who are regularly playing in the team.”

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  • Football today is big money, big business. Winning in the league pleases the head, winning a cup game pleases the heart. Look at it like this, a company may well get some pride by breaking sales records but it's making profits whach ensures its continued existence and keeps management in a job.

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • Why does it have to be either\or? Winning is the key, getting in the habit of winning is fine by me. Cup success doesn't mean an automatic relegation battle so I don't see the logic of playing weakened teams in the cup. Remember Luton guys.

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • I follow the Norwich City and I'd happily swap a win today for beating Bournemouth away. Then again I don't look at every quote from the manager and try to twist something negative out of it.

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • Ruddy Whittaker Martin Bennett Olson Redmond Mulumbu Dorrans Brady Vadis Lafferty Subs Rudd, Wisdom, Bassong, O'neill Grabban

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • Quite simply, the Premier League has destroyed this 3rd round with next weeks mid-week fixtures ! It's no coincidence that Europe is on a winter break and are throwing $$$ at the PL to screen games while their domestic league takes a rest (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

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    Ole Tommy Buster Custard

    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • Looking at the final paragraph, it probably means Ruddy in goal, Laffs upfront with 3 other changes.

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • Stew, He didn't say he had no interest in the cup. Also Big Sam at Sunderland said a similar thing, his remit was to keep his team in the Prem, our board have probably told AN the same. Man City will field a second 11 so we still have a good chance at home, I hope.

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    Saturday, January 9, 2016

  • …..It may not mean much to him, but I think anyone who follows Norwich City will see things differently!….We definitely won't be winning the Premier League this season, so a good shot at the Cup is important to us!….I fully expect to see Ruddy back on show, so that means we start one goal down….Others probably on parade and in the shop window may well be Whittaker, Grabben, Dorans, and the invisible man Rafferty!….Who would be a Football Manager, when the competition you are turning a team out for, is of no interest|!…..

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    Stew Pydsodd

    Saturday, January 9, 2016

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