Dani Ayala hopes to answer Norwich City’s defensive issues
Some Norwich City fans may want to see a centre-back on Paul Lambert's January wish list – but Dani Ayala will hope his timely recovery from injury can calm their concerns.
Ayala cut an assured presence on Monday as the Canaries made it a perfect start to 2012 with an excellent win at last season's Championship victors Queens Park Rangers.
And while there remains the lack of a clean sheet this season, there were encouraging signs from the former Liverpool trainee and his partnership with fellow ex-Red Zak Whitbread as Lambert stuck with his fifth centre-back starting pair this term.
'I feel really tired but I'm really happy for what I've done,' said the Spaniard. 'I know I have been a bit unlucky with the injury but now I feel great, so I can't wait for the next game.'
His next game may not be City's next, of course.
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The Canaries welcome Burnley to Carrow Road on Saturday for their FA Cup third round tie and with Ayala having ended his near four-month injury absence with two 90 minutes in the space of three days, City manager Lambert may well consider replicating the break from top-flight action with his Spanish centre-back.
The 21-year-old had a tough start to life at City after a permanent move from Liverpool in August: unable to help 10-man City hold on to a win at home to Stoke on his home debut, before a first start – and the knee injury – which came in the embarrassing 4-0 Carling Cup exit to MK Dons.
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Ayala has had a long wait before being able to really show what he can do, but made more than a good impression in City's win at Loftus Road.
'I've been more than three months wanting to play here – I just wanted to play and show what I could do,' said the man from Seville, who cost City a reported �750,000. 'I know in my first games I didn't do very well, but I feel I am very capable of playing well in the Premier League.
'It was really hard, especially in the game I got injured I didn't play very well, so it was even harder for me here – and then three months of waiting. But I think I've been good during my wait and now I'm here playing.'
City can concentrate on making a decent fist of their FA Cup tie safe in the knowledge of a mid-table position in the Premier League.
And Ayala reiterated the Canaries will not be casting their league sights higher than safety any time soon.
'I think we need to be focused on staying up and not put too much pressure on ourselves; we've just got to win as many games as we can,' he added.
'For the team, QPR was a massive win. It brilliant for us, three points, and we're ready for the next game. Every win, it doesn't matter the way you get it, it's always really hard. And away from home it is even harder, but I think we did brilliant.'