Euro benefits for fit-again Norwich City duo Kyle Lafferty and Martin Olsson
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
For once Alex Neil is happy to reap the benefits from the upcoming international break with fit-again Norwich City duo Kyle Lafferty and Martin Olsson both poised to feature in Euro2016 qualifying action.
Olsson will make his first Canaries' appearance since the Championship play-off final win at Wembley in May when he features in Friday's opening Carrow Road development game of the season against Chelsea's Under-21s (KO 7pm).
Olsson is then poised to link up with Sweden for their qualifiers against Russia and Austria. Lafferty is not on duty for the Canaries this evening after overcoming a knee injury which wrecked his pre-season, but the striker is part of Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland set-up for ties against the Faroe Islands and Hungary.
Both go with City boss Neil's blessing.
'I think Kyle and Martin are in the same boat,' he said. 'We want them to get as many games under their belt but certainly by the time the next couple of weeks come around they should have had enough training to be ready to get fully involved with us. Hopefully both go and get good minutes for their countries and get themselves in the best shape to come back here ready to play.
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'Martin will get a wee bit of game-time (against Chelsea's U21s) because he has just come back. Kyle has only done a couple of days training so he is a bit short right at the moment and with the fact he has been out for a number of weeks I wouldn't take any chances.'
The pending returns of both Olsson and Lafferty merely add to the intense competition for Premier League places. Neil made eight changes for the midweek Capital One Cup triumph at Rotherham and the Scot promises no-one will take their top flight place for granted.
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'They all have to prove themselves. There is no-one in the team who is a stick-on to start every week,' he said. 'If you don't perform or you don't do what is required of you then your place the following week is going to be in jeopardy. That is the strength of the group. When I analyse any game I will go performance, result and then individual performances.
'We have a lot of lads here who have played in the Premier League and they also showed last year in that limited period in the Championship under me they could get us back to the Premier League.
'They proved how efficient they were and that they were above that level. Obviously the Premier League is a more difficult level but we are that much further down the line now of how we deal with things, the understanding of what I want from them and the direction we are trying to go in.'
• Olsson is one of three over-age players in Dmitri Halajko's squad at Carrow Road on Friday night with Elliott Bennett and Tony Andreu included. Former Blackburn stopper Jake Kean is also set to feature. (KO 7pm)
'The games that have a crowd are the best ones that we play. They certainly have a different edge to them, and it makes the environment more realistic for our under-21s players,' said Halajko, with supporters able to watch the action for free if they get a ticket in advance in a repeat of last season's successful experiment. 'We had the biggest average attendance last year in the country, which was really special for the lads.'