Only the best will do for Norwich City boss Paul Lambert as he prepares his players for a hectic sequence of four Championship matches in nine days.

The fifth-placed Canaries kick off their Christmas and New Year programme with Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (1pm).

With home games against Sheffield United and leaders Queens Park Rangers and a trip to Middlesbrough following hot on the heels of the South London outing, it’s a programme that promises to stretch a squad already hit by injuries and suspension. But Lambert is determined to try to field his strongest available eleven in each match rather than be tempted to rest anyone.

“I don’t have the biggest of squads. I’m not really one for major rotation,” he said.

“I try to pick a team that I think will win a game and that’s what we’ll try to do over this period of time.

“It might look on paper as if you’ve got a big squad but you haven’t because there are a lot of young ones who are untried. When you look at that, then it becomes a reality. But one or two I hope will come back shortly, which will help us.”

Defender Leon Barnett is suspended for two more games following his FA hearing, while full-back Russell Martin and forward Wes Hoolahan are both under treatment for thigh injuries they suffered in the 2-1 win at Coventry.

Defenders Adam Drury and Zak Whitbread are back in training but Andrew Surman, Stephen Hughes and Matthew Gill are still out of action.

Better news is that midfielder Andrew Crofts should be available for the Boxing Day date with Palace after missing the game against the Sky Blues because of a bout of flu’.

Palace, third from bottom, will be looking to complete the double over City after a surprise 2-1 win at Carrow Road in October. Although manager George Burley is reported to be on thin ice because of poor results – claims denied by the club – Lambert warned his players against any complacency.

“If we’re not at it, they will turn us over,” he said. “We have to be really on our game. If we can keep playing the way we have, with a bit of luck, we’ll win, but we’re not good enough just to turn up and think we’re going to win.”

The City boss believes the Christmas schedule is too punishing and he favours the kind of mid-season break he enjoyed in Scotland and Germany as a player.

He said: “That’s when a winter break becomes beneficial. It’s a lot of games if you get one or two injuries and then you get suspensions and you’ve got to turn the lads over again, game after game. It’s not easy.”