It’s the Real thing soon for Lambert
Norwich City fans may tonight get a better idea of manager Paul Lambert's plans for the start of the Premier League season when they play the first of two friendlies against European opposition.
The Canaries take on Spanish side Real Zaragoza at Carrow Road (7.30pm), with the big kick-off at Wigan just 10 days away, and their pre-season schedule almost complete.
This evening's match and Saturday's visit of Italian club Parma provide Lambert with the last chance to assess his promotion winners and new signings, and he admits he has a 'rough idea' of his preferred line-up for the opening day.
While he plans to involve each of his senior players at some stage over the two games, there are likely to be fewer substitutions and there may just be more of an indication of who is in the frame to start the match at the DW Stadium than in the previous three warm-up matches, each of which featured 10 changes during the course of 90 minutes.
'It's two hard games and everybody will play part of them but there won't be too many changes like there have been over the course of the past week,' he said.
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Defender Elliott Ward and striker James Vaughan are set to miss the start of the season with knee injuries, midfielder Andrew Crofts suffered a knock in the 3-0 win at Coventry on Saturday, and Lambert is adopting a 'wait and see' approach over Anthony Pilkington's fitness – though the winger himself suggested on Twitter yesterday that he was hoping to get some time on the pitch tonight after recovering from a broken leg sustained at Huddersfield in March.
The rest of the squad came through three games in five days with no ill-effects, but the opposition marks a step up in status in the next two matches.
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'They will be different games,' said Lambert. 'When you play European opposition you tend to find if you give it away you might have to run a lot more than you're used to, so it will be hard. We're playing against two top European sides, but we'll try to do our best to try to win them.'
Zaragoza finished 13th in Serie A last season, surviving on the last day with a 2-1 win at Levante, but severe financial probems meant they applied to go into voluntary administration in June.
Coach Javier Aguirre was in charge of Mexico at the 2010 World Cup and has just signed Mexican international defender Efrain Ju�rez on a season-long loan from Celtic. Zaragoza are the first Spanish side to visit Carrow Road since Real Sociedad were beaten 2-0 in Peter Mendham's testimonial in 1987.
Real Zaragoza squad – Goalkeepers: Leo Franco, Toni Doblas. Defenders: Contini, Da Silva, Goni, Laguardia, Lanzaro, Mateos, Obradovic, Paredes, Minero, Ju�rez. Midfielders: Juan Carlos, Ponzio, Pint�r, Lafita. Forwards: Edu Oriol, Braulio, Uche.