Norwich City team news: Steven Naismith and Ivo Pinto winning fitness race for Ipswich Town derby duel
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Steven Naismith and Ivo Pinto are poised to hand Norwich City a pre-derby boost with the pair winning their fitness battles to feature against Ipswich Town on Sunday.
Naismith (hamstring) and Pinto (foot) have been big misses in the last few games, but Alex Neil confirmed at Colney on Thursday morning the duo are in contention for Town's crunch visit. Combative midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is another who could be passed fit after missing last weekend's disappointing 2-1 defeat at Burton.
Nelson Oliveira (foot), Graham Dorrans (knee) and Louis Thompson (Achilles) are longer term absentees as City look to inflict derby defeat on Mick McCarthy's squad.
'I don't think Nelson will make it but we have possibly two of the other lads who will be available. Ivo has been able to do some work this week so that is good news,' said Neil. 'Steven is fine, he is okay, I am hopeful he will be fit for the game. I think Steven could be thrown back in, even though we know what this game is all about. He is certainly at his most peak level of fitness since he joined the club. He has been working extremely hard. When I say he is ready to play, I don't mean he has done just one training session. He has been training for the majority of this week. He will be fit and ready if required.
'It is a big game, regardless. One, because it is a derby and it is the fans' bragging rights and all that goes with that and, two, because of where we are in the table and we need the points. Added to that Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United play each other and that is an important game. We have Sheffield the following game so we know we can bring the gap down to four points. The constant is we have to win our games.
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'It is difficult to say why we have had the upper hand. Derbies are games separate from any other because of what it means for the fans. We have had the good side of this in the past six or seven games. We have been in the Premier League as well and when we have played Ipswich it has been almost a Premier League team playing a Championship team. It is going to be difficult. Mick has got his team well-organised, they will be up for the game but equally we are in good form at home and I would expect us to attack the match and get the points.
'I expect a good response (from Burton). We were disappointed. We were the makers of our own downfall at times. The first goal is a basic mistake and the second we give the ball away cheaply.'
Neil's assistant boss, Alan Irvine, was touted with the Rangers' vacancy earlier in the week but Neil scotched speculation in the Scottish media.
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'No, there is nothing in it,' he said. 'We were talking and laughing about it on Wednesday. There is nothing in it. What has probably happened is somebody has put a bet on Al to get the job and as the bookies tend to do they have shortened the odds.'