Wolves are not strugglers in my eyes, says Lambert

It is too soon to label Wolves as a struggling side, City manager Paul Lambert warned ahead of tonight's Premier League meeting at Molineux.

The Midlands club have lost five of their last seven league games and sit one point above the bottom three in the table.

While bottom pair Blackburn and Bolton meet at Ewood Park this evening, Wolves will be trying to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone and could move within three points of the Canaries if they beat them.

Lambert insisted: 'Whatever position Wolves were in it would be a hard game for us. We're new, we've only played 16 games in this league. They have been in it for a number of years. We're holding our own. We've got a little bit of a foothold.

'Every team we play against is a hard game. I don't think they are struggling. The points difference is not that great to be saying they are struggling.

'It's a tough game, it really is. Mick McCarthy has done great there as well and they have been an established Premier League side for a number of years.

'Mick has had unfair criticism earlier on this season. I think it was terrible and I spoke about it at the time. What he has done for that club has been huge. I only know him through dealings with Andrew Surman and speaking to him on the phone. The good thing about him is he is straight as a die.'

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Lambert is not under-estimating the size of the challenge at Molineux, where City have won just once in their history.

'It's a physical game, a big crowd again. That doesn't deflect from the fact they have some really talented footballers,' he said. 'I'm not saying they are a physical side. You make no apologies for being strong but they can also play. That is the thing we have to combat as well.'

City have no fresh injury problems, but defender Ritchie de Laet will not train until later in the week because of the back problem that forced him to miss the last three games. Elliott Ward was due back in training this week after five months out with a knee injury but is very unlikely to feature over the Christmas and New Year period. Striker James Vaughan, out since September, continues to work on his fitness and rehabilitation in Los Angeles.

Defender Zak Whitbread, meanwhile, has shown no ill-effects from his return to senior action against Newcastle and Everton.

'Everybody seems to be OK. Zak came through it really fine, so he did, so hopefully he is ready to go again. I need to see how he is feeling,' said Lambert.

'I'm happy with the way he has played in the last two games. It's really hard at this time of year with the number of games but it is more or less the same for everybody. I'll see how the lads are feeling later on today.

'It's a big ask for everybody to play every game over this period. I have to judge how they are and how they are feeling in themselves. It's just the way it is. We have to be ready the best we can to go again.'

Summer signings Anthony Pilkington, Elliott Bennett and Bradley Johnson will be striving for a recall after starting the last two games on the bench.

'I think with the amount of games you play at such a high level maybe some lads need a break from it,' said Lambert.

'You can bet any money you want that those lads will go again. We need everybody in the squad to perform. Depending on games and injuries we'll need everybody.'

Another ex-Celtic favourite – though not at the same time – McCarthy praised the revival Norwich have enjoyed under Lambert.

'From being a Premier League team for a long time, they drifted and to get back in two seasons and do what he's doing this season as well is fabulous,' he said.

'They've impressed, but if you ask do you want Norwich at home or Manchester City at home, we all know the answer to that, although Norwich isn't going to be easy.

'They're well organised and are a tough, fit team doing well and we are going to have to deal with that.'