Paul Lambert - FA Cup progress is on Norwich City’s agenda
Paul Lambert admits FA Cup fever may not have gripped his squad this week – but the City chief is adamant no-one wants to beat Leicester more this afternoon.
Lambert knows a huge home support will head to Carrow Road desperate to witness a rare piece of cup history unfolding with a place in the quarter-finals at stake against mid-table Championship opposition.
'You give it every respect. There'll be some changes in the team but it won't be a weakened side that is for sure,' he said. 'It's a game we'll go and try to win. There is a chance to get through. I won't treat it lightly and it won't be for the lack of trying. People will turn up here expecting us to win, but that's normal that they come here in their thousands and get behind us. Perhaps a few years ago they would have probably turned up thinking from a game like this we'd get beat or maybe draw. The good thing is we are at home, we are playing really well and the confidence is high. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, we gave it a go because the Premier League is the main thing.
'The players feel just the same as every other league game. We tried not to change anything. The only thing the cup does is it gives you a bit of respite from the league - which is so demanding because it is vital you stay in it.'
Lambert repeated his pre-match mantra prior to both the previous FA Cup wins over Burnley and West Brom – a positive outcome at the first time of asking.
'We have to try and get it finished. Like I said about the Burnley game I don't want it to go to a replay,' he said. 'Another game would be inconvenient because of the league. I know Leicester won't turn up and let us just do what we want to do. They will want to win the game themselves but Nigel (Pearson) might change his side due to the league situation they are in.
'I'm pretty sure if you asked him and said you would get knocked out of the cup but you would be in the play-offs come the end of the season, I am pretty sure he would take that. I am no different. Look at his squad and they have some top players not playing as well so I am not sure what you class as his strongest side at the minute. We'll need to play well.'
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Norwich's league status and success in recent months contrasts sharply with big-spending Leicester's attempts to follow them out of the Football League. Pearson was brought back to the East Midlands after Sven-Goran Eriksson's expensive experiment failed, but Lambert is placing little store by the respective current fortunes of both clubs.
'Leicester is a side that not long ago we were playing ourselves,' he said. 'It is a really hard game for us. I think they have got a right good squad of players with lads who know what the Premier League is all about. The Championship is extremely tough. No two ways about it. The amount of games you play as well and Nigel has not been in it for that long - albeit he was there for a couple of years a while back.
'He knows the club and what to expect and him going back there has given it a lift. I've spoken to him before and met him a few times and he is a fantastic guy. He really is. A nice guy who did great at Leicester and Hull before. I know they lost the other night, but it is still a squad with some good players.'
Lambert's own playing options will again be restricted by injury. Dani Ayala and Zak Whitbread are both ruled out with the hamstring problems sustained in the Premier League home win over Bolton. Left-back Marc Tierney (groin) remains on the sidelines, but Lambert revealed yesterday Tottenham have granted permission for Kyle Naughton to feature against the Foxes if he overcomes a knock suffered in last weekend's Swansea victory.
Elliott Bennett and Elliott Ward have trained this week after picking up minor injuries at the Liberty Stadium whilst Adam Drury (groin) will be given every chance to press his claims.
'There are one or two that are carrying little things at the minute so we will just see how they are and then I'll make a decision what we are going to do,' said Lambert. 'I don't try to put any pressure on them. Zak is doing all right at the minute, but I just think this one is too early for him. Kyle got that little knock from the other day, but he is okay. I need to juggle things and balance it whether I am pushing him too much or not but we have got permission from Spurs to play him. With Wardy and Adam I'll just see how they are feeling. Wardy got a knock against Swansea but I think he is okay.'
Lambert also confirmed young back up keeper Jed Steer is a serious contender to replace John Ruddy after his impressively assured senior debut in the fourth round win at the Hawthorns. James Vaughan is another in Lambert's thinking following a midweek goalscoring reserve outing against the Baggies.
'James is in the squad. I think he is looking a lot better than he was a few weeks ago,' he said. 'He did fine against West Brom and I'll see how he comes through training, but he will be in the squad. There is a good chance that Jed will play. I'll decide today. They all know what I expect whatever team we pick.'
City's squad switch their attentions to cup combat today fresh from a win in Wales which prompted Swansea wide player Nathan Dyer to criticise the Canaries' physical approach – a charge Lambert insists does not stand up to closer scrutiny.
'Over-physical? I've a team of guys who are 5ft 5in,' he said. 'It's only maybe Grant Holt and Elliott who are over 6ft. When you get beat every guy will tell you they want to look for an excuse why you got beat.
'It's part of the game. You can't let players do what they want to do with the ball, but I don't think there was a bad tackle in that game.
'I've tried it myself when I have got beat you look for every excuse under the sun. They are entitled to say what they want. I know players can get misquoted and what have you but it is not something I worry too much about. The lads went down there and I thought we were the better side the whole game and we deserved to win the game.'