Norwich City’s rivals declare Premier League target
The manager of Norwich City's closest Championship promotion rivals believes 80 points could clinch Premier League football.
Swansea chief Brendan Rodgers wants his men to aim for that benchmark over the run-in with the third-placed Swans currently on 66 points – one adrift of the Canaries with eight league games remaining.
Rogers insists automatic promotion is within his side's own grasp, given City must visit south Wales next week in a potentially pivotal encounter.
'You'd be unlucky if you got to 80 points and didn't go up,' said Rodgers, with Sheffield United the only side with that tally to miss out over the previous five Championship campaigns.
'We began the season talking about the season being a marathon. Well, we've completed most of it and are ready for a sprint finish.
'There are eight nail-biting games left over an important six weeks for everyone. But the good thing is that it's all in our own hands. We've got four games at home and four away and I'm always aiming upwards.
'The two main things that have been a feature of the season so far have been our quality and personality. If we can take those two things into our final games and get a bit of luck along the way then we can achieve our dream. There are not a lot of teams who can say that.'
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Rodgers' reliance on 80 points could appear brave considering that any of seven teams chasing the second promotion place behind champions-elect QPR – including Swansea – could in theory better that target.
But he feels whoever among the chasing pack holds their nerve best will clinch automatic promotion.
'Bravery is not always about putting your head in where it hurts,' he said. 'Sometimes it is about having the courage to get on the ball and these players do that in abundance.
'Players have already shown courage and bravery which will help us, now we have to make sure we have that real steel to finish off jobs.
'There is no question of us going against our identity now. We will stick to our guns, look to impose our game on opponents. This season the one thing we have been able to do is win football matches and we have to keep that going.'
Rodgers admits the pressure on the promotion-chasing managers will be intense over the next month. The 38-year-old is experiencing his first full season at the helm after aborted spells in charge at Reading and Watford.
'You have to try and enjoy it,' he said. 'You don't sometimes when you are right in the middle of it. It is agonising and any manager will tell you the same. It can be difficult and you are thinking about things all the time. But you must try and embrace it and go and make it work for you. It's okay to have fear, but only if you use it in a positive way.
'It is much better being at the top having this fight than at bottom where it's a totally different pressure. As players and staff we are looking forward to it. We know there will be all sorts of ups and downs. We go out and play very positively and to enjoy the game. More times than not, it has seen us win.'
WHERE THE CHASING PACK MUST FIND THEIR POINTS
• Norwich City: Scunthorpe H, Swansea A, Watford A, Nottm Forest H, Ipswich A, Derby H, Portsmouth A, Coventry H.
• Swansea: Preston A, Norwich H, Hull H, Burnley A, Portsmouth A, Ipswich H, Millwall A, Sheff Utd H.
• Cardiff: Derby H, Doncaster A, Sheff Utd A, Portsmouth H, QPR H, Preston A, Middlesbrough H, Burnley A.
• Leeds: Ntm Forest H, Millwall A, Derby A, Watford H, Reading H, C Palace A, Burnley H, QPR A.
• Nottm Forest: Leeds A, Reading H, Burnley H, Norwich A, Leicester H, Bristol City A, Scunthorpe H, C Palace A.
• Reading: Portsmouth H, Preston H, N Forest A, Scunthorpe A, Leicester H, Leeds A, Sheff Utd H, Coventry A, Derby H.