Norwich manager Alex Neil believes his side’s ability to flourish in high-pressure situations will help them through their relegation battle against Sunderland on Saturday.
The Scot has told his players to embrace all the scrutiny and hype around the Carrow Road clash, where victory would leave the Canaries favourites to beat the drop.
A win would send Norwich seven points clear of Sunderland, a margin Neil admits would be “a really great position” despite the Black Cats’ game-in-hand.
“I think it’s a huge advantage we’re playing at home, our form at home has been better than away from home, as you would expect for a team at the bottom end of the table,” said Neil.
“Having your fans behind you certainly helps, and I think our players perform better in these types of circumstances.
“I’ve told the players ‘go and enjoy the game, this is what we play football for, this is why we’re involved in big games’.
“The focus is going to be on the game and rightly so.
“We’ve been involved in high-pressure situations quite a lot of times since I’ve been here and you’ve got to enjoy it and go and show everybody what we can do.
“We’d be in a really great position if we win, but we’ve just got to enjoy it.”
Timm Klose will face a late fitness test on his knee injury, with Neil admitting the defender will be given every chance to prove he is ready for action.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has made little secret of his desire for defensive frugality to become the Black Cats’ best route to safety, but the Wearsiders need points, and fast.
While Norwich manager Neil anticipates a “cagey” first half, he expects the game to become increasingly fraught and ragged – especially if one side falls behind and must then force the issue.
Neil has told his Norwich players to keep control of the contest to ensure they are not the ones chasing the game as the clash unfolds.
“Both teams don’t like giving anything away but both teams recognise the fact that they need to win the game,” Neil told Norwich’s official club website.
“And I think who will get the first goal will help, and then as the game wears on, depending on who’s winning or who requires what, I think the game will open up.
“I think it will be two very different halves.
“The first half will maybe be cagey with either team trying to get a foothold in the game, and I think the second half, depending on how the game’s going, one team or the other’s going to have to go for it and then it should open up from there.”