Norwich City chief Alex Neil is not fooled by Chelsea’s spiral
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Reports of Chelsea's decline have been grossly exaggerated, according to Alex Neil.
The Scot knows the headline figures make bleak reading for Jose Mourinho's Blues after the early months of their title defence, but Neil is wary of a talented squad and a manager determined to answer the critics on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
'We don't want to be the one who gets the backlash,' he said. 'We have to make sure we are at our best and if we do that then we give ourselves a chance. With their capabilities you would certainly expect them to be doing better. The quality in that squad of players is really high, but it is no secret they haven't been hitting those levels so far this season.
'It is difficult to say if this is a good time or not to play them. Everyone on the outside is looking at Chelsea and expecting them to turn it around, almost by the week.
'For whatever reason, and Jose will know a lot better than me, that has not been the case. I have absolutely no idea why they have lost so many games after winning the title. They were the top team in the country last year but we hope the slump can continue. You just know with the quality they have got they can turn it around.'
Neil's men showed no signs of any inferiority complex at Manchester City in their last Premier League away day but the City boss has ruled out a similar approach.
'The way we went at Manchester City will have no bearing on this game, in terms of tactically or how we set a team up,' he said. 'We have assessed Chelsea and we will adapt accordingly to them. I wouldn't read anything into the Manchester City game.
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'It is difficult to try and match them blow for blow. I don't know how much money they have spent on their squad but they have quality internationals all across the park.
'At times when you are playing the bigger teams away from home you have to find a different dynamic that gives us an advantage, and that doesn't mean we just sit everybody behind the ball.'
Norwich went into the international break on a high after beating Swansea and Neil is aiming to harness the feelgood factor from Euro 2016 play-off success for Sweden's Martin Olsson and Republic of Ireland duo Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan.
'They will have celebrated and enjoyed the moment but they know they have work to do this weekend,' said Neil. 'You can look at it two ways - in terms of that was such a high it could take something out of them physically and emotionally but on the flip side they have come back here so happy we can tap into that.
'Last year we had this scenario where we played Ipswich and did exceptionally well and that was a massive high and then a few days later we had Wigan and it went from the high of the derby to not hitting those same heights and not really performing.
'What we have to make sure is we avoid that at all costs, but when they have had a good experience you can certainly use that to our advantage.'