Norwich City will play a waiting game with injured stars

Chris Hughton's currency of choice to measure Norwich City's pre-season progress is less in goals scored and conceded as limbs bruised and strained.

The City chief was candidly open when questioned on the Canaries' relative lack of goals since returning from their pre-season training camp in Austria.

Hughton wants to see a selfish streak in front of goal when the real Premier League action begins at Fulham in seven days time after watching the latest midweek goalless friendly draw at Hull.

Champions League qualifiers Borussia Monchengladbach certainly have the pedigree to test City on home soil in a repeat of Ajax's composed sophistication in possession at Carrow Road last month.

Hughton would welcome a confidence-boosting display at home to the Germans – but not at the expense of gambling with any of his injured stars.


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Wes Hoolahan and Elliott Ward are both expected to sit out the latest friendly again this afternoon after missing the midweek trip to Humberside with minor niggles.

Midfield duo David Fox and Jacob Butterfield are also set for a watching brief after both stepped up their fitness bid by taking part in the club's open training session on Thursday.

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Summer arrival Steven Whittaker remains Hughton's only confirmed injury-absentee for the Premier League curtain-raiser at Craven Cottage – and the Norwich manager aims to keep it that way against Monchengladbach.

'This will be a big test. Just like Ajax who come to us and were playing with an awful lot of confidence. This is similar, but it is what you want,' he said. 'First and foremost you want to come through with no injuries and you can start on Monday morning with a clean bill of health from the weekend, but you also want to get a little bit of rhythm in your game.

'It's not the be all and end all whether you win the game or not. You just want to see enough and come through with a clean bill of health.

'I am pleased (with pre-season). Steven getting injured was a big blow for us but sometimes you have to take a step back and think, 'well, that could have been worse,' because when he did the initial injury we weren't sure at the time.

'It could've been worse, but at this moment we have been okay. I'm sure there will be other clubs who have had bigger problems in pre-season with injury than we have had.'

Hughton, speaking prior to Hoolahan's Republic of Ireland call-up and subsequent withdrawal for their friendly next week against Serbia with an Achilles problem, had pencilled in a return to training on Monday for the Dubliner.

'Both Wes and Wardy haven't trained this week,' he said. 'Wes we expect to train on Monday, Wardy might be a few more days than that but neither of them is anything major. They are just little knocks that will keep them out for a very short period.'

Hughton reiterated a longer-term fitness strategy is essential with the likes of Butterfield and Fox who have yet to feature in any of City's summer friendlies.

'The good news is they are back training. Both Foxy and Jacob have joined in and we will look to get them involved whenever we can from this point to get them back up to speed, but they have missed a fair chunk of pre-season,' he said. 'There is nothing more frustrating in our game, medically, then when a player re-injures.

'Once you have a player who is behind everybody else and you get them back it is important you make sure they are back to stay. If that means taking that little bit longer, then so be it. We all know when you hit the season itself and maybe you pick up an injury or two you might be pressurised into playing somebody a little bit earlier than you would want to. Ultimately you try as much as possible to go through the correct guidelines.'

Hughton has been in the game long enough to know the real business starts once the final whistle ends this afternoon signals the climax of City's pre-season build-up.

'We know this is the last game before the season starts so you want to go into it making sure you show some of the qualities you want to take into the season,' he said.

'But I have been involved in so many pre-season games and the game before the season may have gone right, it may have gone wrong. It's a barometer of where we are but come the first day of the season some teams will hit the ground running straight away. Some may take a few weeks to get into their stride.

'It is not just about that first day, it is about the first game, the one after that and the one after that. It is about putting some consistency together. I certainly know the players better than I did last week and the week before and the week before that.

'You can only do so much over a pre-season period. You learn and you grow as a team over the course of a season, experiencing the highs and lows, ups and downs.

'We're the same as every other club, we want to get off to a good start. That is normal.'

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