Lambert hopes his team will show how far they’ve come in the last two seasons

Paul Lambert is looking for a coming-of-age performance against Sunderland in tonight's televised Premier League home game at Carrow Road. (8pm)

Sunderland's last visit to these parts came two matches into Lambert's reign when the Wearsiders cruised to a comfortable 4-1 League Cup success against a City side much lower in the football pecking order. The Canaries re-oppose this evening firmly on level terms after a period of unbroken success under the Scot.

'It's totally different from that time,' he said. 'We were finding our feet and we were up against a Premier League side that was two divisions higher and we were just new into it, but I think it shows you how far Norwich have come as a football club, on the field and off it. The fans have always been there – but maybe they're a bit more vibrant now.

'It will be really tough. We played Sunderland when we were in League One and we got turned over in that game, but it's a different atmosphere, I think, on Monday. It's a different game and I hope we have moved on in the two years we've been here.'

Lambert has plenty of sympathy for Norwich old boy Steve Bruce who has had his fair share of negative recent press to contend with during a difficult start to the new campaign which took a turn for the better against Stoke last time out.

'I think Steve has taken so much unfair criticism, it's not right, but that's the nature of the game,' said Lambert. 'I think he was getting stick after about three games, which is bizarre, really. But that's football nowadays. It seems any mistake you make you're getting heavily criticised for it.I know how hard it's going to be. They've got really top players in their side. They're an established Premier League side. If you look at the players they've brought in, in the summer, they're really, really strong and that will add to the ones that they've got.'

Lambert restored Russell Martin to an unfamiliar centre back role for the memorable away league win at Bolton – and the City boss reiterated he would have no qualms including the model professional again against the Wearsiders.

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'The good thing about Russell is for somebody who's relatively young he's played a hell of a lot of football games,' said Lambert. 'He knows the game and one thing you can never question with him is a desire to go and do his best. I think Russell's a good talker but he's also a lad that's never let me down, even when I had him at Wycombe.

'He's somebody that I trust and that's really, really important. I thought against Kevin Davies and (Ivan) Klasnic, he and Leon (Barnett) were exceptional. I think people respect him in the dressing room which is always a good thing to have but one thing about Russell, he never lets me down. He played against Millwall here in that position and played very well that day as well.'

David Fox also pressed his claims for a start with a decisive role in both City's first half goals at the Reebok.

'He's got a great habit of giving the ball to his team-mate. He's got an eye for that pass and he is a really top player,' said Lambert. 'Being at Manchester United when he was younger has given him a great grounding, a great level of appreciation for the game.

'I think he's a marvellous player. He can see things in one touch that some people maybe do it in two or three. He can do it in one. He has a great awareness of the game, the way he plays it. He trains the way he plays and I think for any footballer to have that is a great thing.'

City's date in front of the cameras as the final Premier League fixture of an elongated weekend programme brings with it unwanted side effects. Man United this weekend is already starting to loom large on the horizon.

'It makes it a long week - thank God we've got an easy game next Saturday,' said Lambert, prior to the latest round of games. 'I'm going to go and watch them - if I don't watch them over this weekend I'll watch them on Tuesday in the Champions League. I'm just going up to see where I can park the bus.

'You don't need to be Einstein to see how good they are, do you? I'll probably go up to Old Trafford and have a look but they're an absolutely top side at the moment. We've earned the right.

'This is what everybody works for and aspires to be in this league. I never forget we were in League One because it's been hard work to get out of that, really hard work to get out of the Championship but I also never forget where we've been and we certainly don't want to go back there.'