Norwich City defensive duo near first team return

Norwich City boss Paul Lambert confirmed on Friday morning long term injured central defensive duo Zak Whitbread and Dani Ayala are poised for a first team recall.

The duo will not be considered for this weekend's Premier League game against QPR at Carrow Road - but Lambert revealed both successfully came through a midweek practice match. Whitbread has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in August. Ayala has only played 24 minutes in the top flight for the Canaries following his move from Liverpool after damaging knee ligaments in the Carling Cup defeat to MK Dons.

Lambert also confirmed Ritchie De Laet has shaken off a minor back problem and is available for selection this weekend having missed the defeat to Arsenal.

'Zak and Dani played a game, the two of them there, the other day,' said Lambert. 'They came through really fine but they might need just one more (game) before we look to get them involved. They are training really well and they played well the other day.'

Lambert is predicting another close contest with the club City followed out of the Championship after last season's tussles produced only one goal - Russell Martin's New Year's Day matchwinner.

'We had two very tough games with them last year,' he said. 'If we win, we can go above them, so you always live in hope. I think we're the home team so its vital for us to try everything we can. They've strengthened really well and the players they have brought in our really good. They won the league so we're under no illusions. I'm pretty sure this game will be just as tough.'