Will QPR fall victim to Norwich City miracle man?
Premier League preview: Norwich City v QPR
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert’s preparations for his side’s return to the Premier League could hardly have been more different to those undertaken by Neil Warnock at QPR.
While the arrival of Tony Fernandes at Loftus Road allowed the Rangers boss to bring in a host of well-known top flight names – with the promise of more to come in January – Norwich manager Lambert instead scoured the lower leagues to bolster his squad.
While Warnock brought in the likes of Manchester City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips, Newcastle’s Joey Barton and Arsenal’s Armand Traore, Lambert turned to Steve Morison from Millwall, Anthony Pilkington from Huddersfield and Elliott Bennett from Brighton.
So while QPR fans laud their team’s current ninth-place position, it is interesting to note that Lambert’s Norwich, without a single household name, sit just two places below, and clear of the relegation places.
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That is not to say that Norwich City’s impressive start to the season should come as a surprise. Indeed, it is merely a continuation of the club’s relentless rise under Lambert’s guidance.
When Lambert took over just days into the 2009-10 season, he inherited a club which had just been relegated to League One, a club on which he had just inflicted a 7-1 defeat as manager of Colchester.
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Since then, the deadpan Scot has led the Canaries to two successive promotions, completing their journey back to the Premier League after a six-year absence by finishing runners-up to Championship winners QPR last season.
Their results so far this season suggests that, much like at QPR, Norwich fancy their chances of pulling clear of the drop zone long before the nail-biting final weeks of the season.
Their defeats to Chelsea and West Brom were the first time City have lost successive league matches under his tenure.
Successive losses to Arsenal and Aston Villa have dampened the early optimism somewhat, but Lambert has nonetheless masterminded wins over Sunderland, Swansea and Bolton Wanderers, and taken a derserved point off Liverpool at Anfield.
Morison, scorer in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday, is likely to lead the line again against the Rs. Norwich’s leading marksmancould be joined by Grant Holt – scorer against Liverpool – if Lambert decides to go for two up top.
There is enough quality in what is likely to be a 4-3-2-1 formation to cause Rangers concern. In midfield, skipper Wes Hoolahan will be joined by Bradley Johnson in the centre, while Pilkington has scored four times this season and is a threat on either wing.
Leon Barnett has impressed in the centre of defence since he arrived from West Brom at the start of the year, and should play alongside Russell Martin.
Tottenham loanee Kyle Naughton is in line to start at right-back, with former Colchester defender Marc Tierney on the left.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy has been in fine form this season, and produced another impressive display in the narrow 2-1 defeat to Arsenal last weekend.
In what promises to be a fascinating encounter, both sides will have realistic aspirations of taking all three points. Lambert has turned Norwich into a tough nut to crack, but QPR are playing with enough belief to pinch another narrow away win – 2-1 to Rangers.
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