Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Chris Hughton is not one for indulging in mind games but the Norwich boss insists a cursory glance at the Premier League table should prove Sunderland are the side with no margin for error on Saturday at Carrow Road.
Hughton is adamant he would choose City’s current four point buffer to the Black Cats rather than the three league games in hand for Gus Poyet’s side courtesy of their extended but unfulfilled cup runs. The Norwich chief and his players are braced for another fraught Carrow Road affair in a contest that justifiably feels like a defining moment in an inconsistent season.
“Yes, I think I would rather have the points. We are outside that bottom three and our intentions are to stay there,” said Hughton. “We just concentrate on us and we have to be mindful of the mood in the stadium. We are on the back of a poor result and poor performance at Southampton but it is only myself and my players who can do something about that.
“We are very aware of our position and we know a win certainly helps that and the players are conscious we need to react from last week.
“If I look at Sunderland they are capable of picking up points because they have a bit of momentum and they have good players. They certainly got a big lift from those cup runs getting to the final and they will be buoyed by that but for them it is back to business now. The league campaign is the most important thing. We are at home and anytime we play at home we would like to think that is an advantage to use in our favour.”
Hughton expects Sunderland’s approach to reflect the cultured influence of Poyet, although the Wearsiders’ red card count highlights a steely edge from men such as Phil Bardsley, Lee Cattermole and Liam Bridcutt, who was touted with a Carrow Road move in the past before opting to link up with his ex-Brighton mentor.
“We were well aware of him,” said Hughton. “He is a player who is very much used to playing in Gus’ teams with a three in midfield, a holding player who predominantly played that same role at Brighton. We were very aware of him but he has probably gone to Sunderland because he knows Gus very well.
“I could sit and talk about the way Sunderland are going to play but those who have watched them will know the style Gus likes to encourage, which is to pass the ball and try to be expansive. We are probably expecting something like that, but there will be a physical aspect as well and we will need to match that desire. If I look at the players they have and some of their results you would say they can counter-attack very well. They have generally played a 4-3-3 which of course means five across midfield when you are defending. They have bright players in the team and you have to be aware of the qualities they have got, but this is about us and what we can do.”
• Norwich’s Premier League game at Fulham on April 12 will kick off at 3:07pm to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsbrough tragedy.