Norwich City’s Alex Neil is looking for the edge in East Anglian soap opera
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil knows the element of surprise is likely to elude both Norwich City and their East Anglian rivals Ipswich ahead of Saturday's fourth meeting in the seasonal saga.
City's latest derby tussle is the biggest of the lot, with Wembley on the horizon for the winner, after completing a Championship league double and earning a 1-1 draw in last weekend's first leg.
Neil is no stranger, however, to the problem of trying to find an edge against familiar foes after his spell with Hamilton.
'I am used to this in Scotland. One stage we played, I think it was Dundee, six times in a season so you felt as if you were playing them every other week,' he said. 'As a manager it makes it more difficult to come up with something different.
'I know what Ipswich have in terms of personnel, I know how they will go about it and how they play and to be fair to them their style is fairly consistent, regardless of personnel, so we know what is coming.
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'That was the disappointment on the goal we conceded (at Ipswich) because it was a straight punt up the pitch, which we were prepared for, a second ball, which we had prepared for, and we allowed the player to come inside, which we had worked on stopping.'
Neil is targeting a fast start at home and has ruled out any repeat of the sluggish manner they lost 1-0 to play-off rivals Middlesbrough recently over the league run-in.
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'I think we put that to bed in the game after at Rotherham. We started really well that first 20 minutes and we came right out of the traps,' he said. 'What you can't do is harp back.
'You have to look forward and we will have to start well because the one thing Ipswich try to do is put you on the back foot and start at a high tempo and make it physical and we have to stand up to that.
'Middlesbrough was unlike us. We haven't started slowly in most games and we want to make sure that never happens again.
'It is going to be a tense atmosphere, it is going to be vocal and people getting into each other, but we will try to implement our game on them.'
City were also unable to break down a resolute Boro at Carrow Road and Neil is prepared for the same conundrum of unpicking the lock if there is no early breakthrough against their neighbours.
'What you tend to find is teams will sit in when they come here and try and hit you on the counter-attack and defensively we have dealt with that challenge very well,' said Neil. 'The games we lost we haven't started well and then struggled to try and make it up after that when they pretty much stick 11 behind the ball. It is difficult.
'You think back to Wigan and Middlesbrough where they have camped in and tried to waste time and different things, every other game we have given a real good account of ourselves.
'If teams try that with Barcelona, when they go to the Nou Camp, and they find it tough at times to break down then it tells you it is not easy.'