The tougher the better for Norwich City ahead of Rubin Kazan finale
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If Alex Neil wanted things easy he would not have picked big-spending Rubin Kazan as a farewell game on Saturday for Norwich City's week-long stay in Austria (KO noon UK).
The double Russian Premier League champions and serial European qualifiers have spent a reported £8.4m on Spanish playmaker Ruben Rochina and agreed a deal for former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Alex Song over recent days.
Both may feature against the Canaries but Neil is unfazed ahead of unveiling a starting line up which is likely to offer plenty of clues to his thinking for the real business of the Championship opener at Blackburn.
“We have certainly not gone easy on ourselves in that sense during pre-season,” he said. “We need hard football matches to give us the best preparation for the start of the new football season. It does come around quickly because really after this week and next we are into it.
“They are a big, powerful club in Russia. They are a Champions League-type club so you know they will have good players. It is going to be a tough match, just like the Prague game and I even thought the Peterborough boys gave us a game. I consciously went with the young lads the other night due to the fact we faced harder opposition. Everyone knows we had a long season last time around. We had to blow away the cobwebs and all that disappointment and I think we have done that. We are now focused on what is ahead of us.”
The Scot has the added distraction of the transfer window to contend with at present. Norwich have brought in Sergi Canos and Michael McGovern but Neil expects further turnover over the coming weeks. City’s striker search inevitably raises fresh questions over the futures of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Kyle Lafferty who have featured sporadically since Neil arrived in Norfolk.
“Every player here knows and understands their full situation,” he said. “For me to divulge that to anybody else would be unfair on that player but I have had chats with every single one of them and they all know my thoughts and my feelings in terms of their immediate future. I think the fact the transfer window is still open does not help because we would like to have our squad settled. But we are not the only club in that situation.”