Alex Neil believes Norwich City’s next five games will determine whether they are still a Premier League team come the start of next season.
The Canaries, however, may have to navigate their way through that crunch period without Nathan Redmond after Neil revealed the winger is set for “a few weeks” out with an ankle injury.
Saturday’s clash at West Brom precedes three pivotal games against fellow relegation rivals, with home matches against Newcastle and Sunderland coming either side of a trip to Crystal Palace.
Norwich are currently sandwiched between the two struggling north east clubs in 18th, but Neil believes if they escape the bottom three in the next few weeks, his side will have a chance.
“We’ve got a bunch of five games which will probably end up determining where we are,” Neil said.
“If we can come out of those with it still in our hands, with still points to play for and hopefully out of the bottom three that will leave us in a good position.
“We’ve spoken about it three or four weeks ago and discussed the end of the season.
“We’ve got a batch of games now which are going to be absolutely crucial to where we end up. This is the start of that so we need to go to West Brom and get as many points as we can.”
They will have to do it without Redmond, however, who came off in the first half of last weekend’s goalless draw with Manchester City.
Redmond has been a key player for Norwich, scoring five goals this season, but Neil is confident the winger will still play a part in the run-in.
“He’ll be missing for a few weeks,” Neil said.
“He’s a key player for us, there’s no question about that. He’s certainly one of our most talented players so he’ll certainly be a big loss.
“Nathan will definitely play a part in the rest of the season. It’s not going to rule him out or require urgent intervention. It’s just a question of time getting him back up to speed.”
The draw against Manchester City was a welcome boost for Norwich given it was only the second point they had taken from 10 league matches.
The Canaries had also lost their previous three games and Neil revealed how he changed his players’ pre-match routine in an attempt to turn the tide.
“People talk about winning being a habit I think losing can be a habit as well,” Neil said.
“I needed to break that cycle. We took the bus and stayed in a local hotel which we’ve never done. We set a different time for the meeting.
“We just changed things up and gave them a different approach. I’ve done it before and it helped get us a point.”
Ryan Bennett is a doubt for this weekend’s game, although Neil would not elaborate on the cause, while Alex Tettey is definitely missing with an ankle injury.
Robbie Brady, however, has trained this week and is likely to return while Steven Naismith has also overcome a knock and is available.