Norwich City prepare for sternest pre-season test so far

Norwich City's Premier League preparations step up a notch this evening when La Liga side Real Zaragoza are the visitors to Carrow Road, kick-off 7.30pm.

The starting XI manager Paul Lambert chooses may offer supporters a few clues as to how the Canaries will line up for their Premier League opener at Wigan, with the Scot admitting that he is unlikely to use as many substitutions as he has during the club's pre-season campaign so far. No chances are likely to be taken on Andrew Crofts after he was withdrawn at half-time during Norwich's 3-0 win against Coventry at the weekend while longer term casualties Elliott Ward and James Vaughan will miss out.

Lambert is adopting a 'wait and see' approach over Anthony Pilkington's fitness – though the winger himself suggested on Twitter yesterday that he was hoping to get some time on the pitch tonight after recovering from a broken leg sustained at Huddersfield in March.

Places remain up for grabs, with Elliott Bennett staking a claim for a starting berth after his substitute appearance at the Ricoh Arena, which saw him score a 25-yard drive and set up another for Steve Morison. However, there are arguably only two guaranteed places in the starting XI for the trip to Wigan on August 13 with skipper Grant Holt and first choice goalkeeper John Ruddy looking like certain starters.

Lambert is looking forward to seeing how his side cope with the step-up in quality over the last two pre-season friendlies, starting tonight against Zaragoza and Parma on Saturday.

'When you play continental opposition you tend to find if you give it away you might have to run a lot more than you are used to so it'll be hard against two top quality sides,' he said. 'There might not be as many substitutions as there has been in the last few games but everybody will have a part to play.

'We have two more friendlies against two top sides and once we're finished all our attention is on the first game. I think the guide will be when we get into the final week and that's when it will really hit them.'

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This evening will be Zaragoza's second match in England this summer, having been beaten by West Ham on Saturday thanks to goals from Matt Taylor and Freddie Sears.

Nigerian international Ikechukwu Uche is the man to look out for the hosts although the striker will have to share top billing with their manager Javier Aguirre.

The Mexican, who led his nation to the second round of the 2010 World Cup, has been labelled the saviour of the Spanish club after he led them to safety last season when relegation looked a certainty upon his appointment as manager last November. However, he took them on a run that saw them finish the season in 13th place, notably putting a dent in Real Madrid's title challenge thanks to a 3-2 win at the Bernabeu.

Aguirre has joked in the past that he doesn't care too much for football and when away from the game he immerses himself in baseball, literature and cinema.