Lambert - No walkovers in the Premier League
Paul Lambert insists Norwich would be foolish to treat QPR as the hors d'oeuvre before the main event.
Rangers arrive in town this afternoon in the wake of a trailblazing Arsenal display at Carrow Road and prior to next weekend's high-profile trip to runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. Lambert knows full well the pools' punters might have inked City in for a home win against their fellow promoted rivals – but the Scot is a realist.
'Who expects us to win? The home advantage gives you that, but QPR won the league last year,' he said. 'They have come on leaps and bounds. They beat Chelsea not so long ago.
'You want to win every game that you play in – whether it's Arsenal or QPR. I know the importance of the ones around about you, but look at the table and there is nothing in it. That tells you how hard and how close it is. You can't relax for one second.
'I think there is pressure here to win every game. That is the price you pay at this club with the thousands who come out to watch. That should be there every game, whether you are comparing QPR to Manchester City or Manchester United – the expectancy should be there regardless.
'It should be that way. It shouldn't be we just turn up to face QPR and that is more important than Manchester City. That is the wrong way to think; you're disappointed when you lose, whoever you play. I don't prioritise QPR over Manchester City.'
Neil Warnock has performed major surgery on the squad that led Norwich out of the Championship. Lambert is impressed how quickly the experienced campaigner gelled the differing talents of the suspended Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips after the club's long-running ownership saga was resolved in the early weeks of the new campaign.
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'They've brought in some top players, no doubt about that,' said Lambert. 'I think to an extent it would be difficult, but with top players it is easy to fit them in. I think you just have to man-manage them, but the type he has brought in, a lot of them have played in the Premier League before so they know what it is like.
'There was a bit of uncertainty but now it seems to be pretty stable which I am pretty sure he is delighted about. He has been at the top for years. A lot longer than I have ever been a manager. He has done brilliant – everywhere Neil has been – and he has done great again this year. It is a hard challenge for us.'
QPR may not possess a Robin van Persie, but they have plenty of direct attacking threats with Wright-Phillips a profitable supply line for the likes of Heidar Helguson, Jamie Mackie and Jay Bothroyd.
'You don't play that sort of lad every single week or (Theo) Walcott and people like that,' said Lambert. 'You are talking about different players and different types. That is no disrespect to them, but you can't compare. Lads like Walcott and Wright-Phillips are so difficult to play against. Having pace is the key. You do your best to try and shut the shop up. That is what you are up against; the higher level you go, this is what everyone aspires to so there is no point in moaning about it.'
Lambert, however, is at pains to point out Arsenal should not be the benchmark for success. 'They were better than us. You can't kid people on. You have to be a realist,' he said. 'If they had taken their chances it could have been a heavy, heavy defeat.
'I can see why they beat teams because if they score early you have to try and come out and play and they will pick you off. That club is built on years of success. It's a hard ask to play teams like that. That was the first time I came away thinking we deserved to lose the game – which is not too bad considering the length of time I have been here.'
On loan defender Ritchie De Laet is available for selection after missing the Gunners' defeat with a back problem. Lambert reported no fresh injury concerns yesterday, but revealed central defensive pair Zak Whitbread and Dani Ayala are on target to return to the first team fold ahead of a congested festive spell. The duo featured in a midweek practice match following hamstring and knee injuries respectively.