Alex Neil - Norwich City’s Premier League crunch against Sunderland needs no extra hype

Nathan Redmond celebrates scoring Norwich City's third goal at Sunderland earlier this season. Pictu

Nathan Redmond celebrates scoring Norwich City's third goal at Sunderland earlier this season. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Hype and Alex Neil may be an unlikely marriage but even the Norwich City boss did not waste his time taking the edge off Sunderland's Premier League visit.

Neil knows all the permutations better than the most obsessive supporter, but the Scot stopped short of slapping a 'season-defining' label on Saturday's Carrow Road encounter.

'When we look back that may well be the case but if we draw, for argument's sake, then you know there will be more season-defining games ahead,' he said. 'Has it the potential to be the difference? Yes it has. It is going to get built up. In terms of importance this will be up with the play-off final and probably the semi-finals, given it was Ipswich, but just how important depends on the result.

'If we win then we know how big it is. We know the importance. Whether it is defining or not time will tell.'

Norwich can move seven points clear of Sam Allardyce's side if they hold their nerve, after the Black Cats failed to close the gap last weekend following a home defeat to title-chasing Leicester City.

'I think if they had won then we go into this one with a different frame of mind,' said Neil. 'They still have that game in hand and realistically we would have to win because it would be out of our hands. If we go seven points clear it would be huge and difficult for the other two to catch us. It would be a tough task for any team to claw that back with a relatively small number of games left. There is no point me kidding on that is not the case. History suggests if you look over the course of this season not many teams have managed to put that type of run together. It is not even about the psychological aspect for them, it is the points difference that becomes tough to turn around.'

The meticulous Neil has prepared his troops for every possible scenario.

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'It wouldn't surprise me if the second half is a lot different to the first because both teams will be relatively cagey as we look to find our feet,' he said. 'Then in the second half one of us might have to go for it. Our approach doesn't change, come what may, it just depends on how we play. They are saying they need to win so clearly if they are not (after half-time) we know what to expect.'