Chris Hughton - Norwich City can handle a heavy workload
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Chris Hughton insists he is happy to accept the price of success with a Capital One Cup semi-final on the line tonight against Aston Villa.
The Canaries’ have skilfully navigated a testing recent Premier League spell that included trips to Liverpool, Southampton and Swansea. Norwich’s reward for knocking out Paul Lambert’s men would be a two-legged semi-final early in the New Year, along with fitting in the club’s FA Cup third round trip to Peterborough and a full programme of top flight fixtures.
Alex Tettey (thigh) and Ryan Bennett (knock) have definitely been ruled out this evening and Hughton will make a late fitness call on Wes Hoolahan (groin) and Steven Whittaker (hip), but the City boss believes he has strength in depth at his disposal to cope with congestion.
“At the moment fatigue is not an issue, but part of my responsibility is managing it the best way possible and what we do have is a lot of lads that are playing regularly,” he said.
“It is a balance but fortunately for us we have a group of lads who want to play every game. It was important we made ourselves more difficult to beat. That was the first responsibility and with that now has come a confidence.
“It was wonderful for us to score four goals away from home (at Swansea), to do that in this division is a real feat. Perhaps it puts more pressure on players to produce as well – and that is not just strikers, the lads in the wide positions or even central defenders – whatever contribution we can do to spread goals around the team I am glad we are doing that.”
Scotland international Whittaker typifies the spirit in Hughton’s squad, with a first goal for the club at the Liberty Stadium capping an impressive start to his injury-hit Norwich career.
“He has been excellent,” said Hughton. “We had to wait a while for him after getting injured very early in the pre-season.
“After missing some three months he has come in and in effect played every game. That is a fair ask, because generally you will hit a dip or pick up a small injury.
“I can remember him having to play four games in two weeks, one of those was 90 minutes for his country, and that is tough after not playing for three months. At the moment I couldn’t be more delighted with him. He just has a hip problem which is why we had to bring him off towards the end. It was something he felt after the last game. He missed a couple of days training but was fine for Swansea and then felt it in that last part of the game.
“We have to make sure with all these little niggles we don’t push them at the wrong moment and potentially something that could be a week can end up a few weeks.”
Michael Turner’s injury return is a timely boost with Bennett and Tettey again ruled out after missing the 4-3 Premier League win at Swansea and Hoolahan also a doubt for Villa’s last eight visit to Carrow Road.
“Michael trained (on Monday) and will be in the squad,” said Hughton. “Whether he has done enough to use him as part of the squad is another decision we have to make but it is good to have him round and about the group again.”
Hughton has already pledged to resist mass changes to his starting line up, compared to previous rounds of this season’s competition, but the likes of David Fox are likely to come into his thinking after a frustrating spell for the City playmaker.
“It has been tough for him because he is one who played a lot of games last season,” said Hughton. “He trains very, very well every day but I suppose the form of Bradley (Johnson) and Alex of late and then Jon Howson has limited the amount of action Foxy has had. It has been difficult for him but it is certainly not through lack of effort on his part.”
• Tonight’s tie will, if necessary be decided by extra time and penalties.