Chris Hughton - QPR game is another step on the road to Premier League safety
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Chris Hughton knows QPR will target Norwich City’s visit as a must-win in their Premier League survival crusade but insists the feeling is not mutual.
Hughton was at pains to avoid falling into the trap of attaching any extra significance to a lunchtime test against the bottom club. The City boss was at Loftus Road in midweek to watch Harry Redknapp’s men hold champions Manchester City before Rangers flexed their financial muscles with a deadline day splurge that saw the arrival of big-money signing Christopher Samba and a clutch of loanees.
The Canaries’ latest 1-1 draw with Tottenham injected renewed belief Hughton’s squad can avoid being sucked into the same relegation battle QPR now face, but the Norwich manager warned every game between now and the finish line is key.
“Certainly for us it’s not (a six-pointer). It’s one of 14 games we have left and every three points for us is a valuable three points and that will be the same for Queens Park Rangers,” he said. “How they will see the game against us, that’s another thing – whether they see this as a winnable home game for them and perhaps their tactics will be a little bit different, we don’t know.
“I was at the game in midweek against Manchester City and they had a system that was very effective, up against the quality Manchester City have. So I think they will be in confident mood. They’re a team in good form at the moment.
“The players they have brought in are very good players. Irrespective of anything, they have a very good squad and they have quality players in that squad, hence their results.”
Samba’s arrival in west London following on from the recent acquisition of Marseille’s Loic Remy underlined the financial chasm between the former promoted clubs and Hughton has plenty of respect for Redknapp’s fabled fire-fighting abilities.
“We all know he is an excellent manager. He has been brought in to keep a very good QPR team in the division,” said Hughton. “The boy Samba I think he is a top player and it certainly makes them stronger. They were genuinely disappointed to lose (Ryan) Nelsen because he was a big personality but Samba is a top class player and hence that is why they had to pay such big money. If the figures are right, that sort of money for a centre half is very big money. They have brought him in for his defensive qualities, but he is also a threat in the opposition box and that is something we will have to be aware of.”
Hughton believes City will not lack for confidence buoyed by the manner of their high energy display against Champions-League chasing Spurs.
“The pleasing thing was the performance – it was the kind of performance we showed a month ago before we had that little bit of a dip,” he said. “We certainly looked fresher and I go back to what I said earlier this week.
“We have had highs and lows this season and it is almost impossible for a club of our stature to have that consistency right throughout the season. You just hope that when you are on one of your lower periods you pick up points and we were close in four games. It didn’t go for us but we have to look forward.
“You accept the lows and it’s about how you respond to that. But I felt we were excellent and I thought we were going to get the win, even though Spurs were strong in that second half with the quality they have.”
Hughton confirmed City picked up no fresh injuries following their midweek exertions. New signing Luciano Becchio trained with his team mates for the first time yesterday and will be in a squad which is now only missing longer term absentee John Ruddy. Hughton delivered a positive injury bulletin on the England international’s recovery from thigh surgery who is targeting a return before the end of the campaign.
“John is on track. He’s in very good shape at the moment, but it’s one that has to take its course and John, with the ability he has, is one you’d like to have in the fold as quickly as possible,” said Hughton. “But we have to react to what is good medical advice and make sure his rehab is how it should be.
“The only change is Luciano coming in and training for the first day. At the moment we’re okay. John is the only injury we have so we have a full squad to pick from.”
Ruddy’s deputy Mark Bunn impressed against his boyhood club Tottenham after recent criticism in certain quarters following City’s relative New Year downturn.
“I think he has been unfortunate because overall he has done well for us,” said Hughton. “Of course when you go through a period when things aren’t go well you focus on the defensive side, just as when things are not going well at the other end of the pitch you tend to focus on the offensive.
“You think, ‘Are you defending well enough?’ and the keeper is a big part of that. I have been delighted by his performances and if I look in general at the goals we have conceded and how many I can apportion blame to him it would be very minimal.”
Hughton confirmed yesterday Tottenham have recalled young striker Harry Kane to compensate for Emmanuel Adebayor’s absence at the African Cup of Nations.
The City boss also has to re-declare his 25-man Premier League squad following the close of the January trading window. Chris Martin is likely to be the odd man out when he returns from his current Swindon spell with Hughton revealing Crystal Palace loanee Jacob Butterfield will make the cut.
“Jacob at the moment is on an emergency loan and he will be in that 25, that is for sure,” said Hughton. “As for Chris I have to make a decision but certainly Jacob. Chris is coming back to us and what we are looking to do after the seven days have elapsed is get him out.
“Whether we let any of the other players out is a decision I have to make. If it’s right for us for anybody to go on a short-term loan that is something we’ll think about.
“Tottenham have recalled Harry. We were delighted with him as a lad, but it was difficult of course to assess the period he had because of the injury.”