Norwich City must not fluff their lines in Newcastle Premier League crunch clash
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Norwich City sparkled at their dress rehearsal and Alex Neil will demand another command performance at Newcastle's expense.
Rafa Benitez may have been parachuted into Tyneside to haul the Magpies out of Premier League relegation trouble, but Neil insists he knows exactly what to expect when he duels with the high-profile Spaniard at a raucous Carrow Road on Saturday.
'If you were looking for a dress rehearsal for this game and this manager then West Brom were perfect, in terms of we had to be compact and defensively sound because that is how Tony (Pulis) organises his teams,' said Neil.
'With us at home you would expect us to play a little bit more on the front foot this time round as well. He (Benitez) has certainly changed things about a little bit and has players in slightly different positions to earlier in the season. Defensively is where you probably notice the change the most. They are more compact and they are clearly focusing on that side of the game.
'I think they will be really organised. I don't see them being gung-ho. I think they might approach it with a bit of trepidation initially and the first goal will be crucial. I am sure for them they will start conservatively and look to open up as the game wears on. Whoever gets it will have a huge advantage. '
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Neil predicts Benitez has no option but to balance caution with ambition in a bid to wipe out Norwich's three-point advantage just above the relegation places.
'We have been confident we can stay in the league and we have enough in the squad. We are in a decent position now and after this game we hope to be in a really good position,' said Neil.
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'The pressure is on us but for Newcastle this is a must-win because we are ahead of them. I think if we win we would be six points ahead with six to play and three of the other teams in the bottom half of the table still to come. This stretch will go a long way to deciding where we finish. I don't think you can say this is season-defining because whether we win or lose there is still work to be done after this little run, but it will have a huge factor on where we end up and having these games at home is huge for us. Our home form has been better than away. Newcastle have lost their last eight away so you would see that as an advantage.'
The Magpies have also been hit by a untimely injury to keeper Rob Elliot over the international period that is poised to push third-choice Karl Darlow into the spotlight at Carrow Road, with Tim Krul a longer term absentee.
Neil said: 'These type of scenarios can sometimes be the best thing that happens to you. When you put a young man in you either get an outstanding performance or a lad who is caught a bit in the headlights. That remains to be seen until after this game. As a manager you can sometimes get forced into a corner through circumstance and injury and it can be beneficial for you.'