Norwich City are preparing for a different challenge as they travel to the capital to face QPR this afternoon, but David Wagner is demanding more of the same.

Recent clashes have pitted them against teams above or in and around them, with QPR the lowest ranked team they have faced in the Championship since they played Millwall in late December.

A healthy return in January has left them within touching distance of the top six – but they cannot release their foot from the accelerator as the season begins its descent with just 16 matches to play for the Canaries.

Wagner has been fighting back against critics and has swung the pendulum into his favour again, but that is dependant as always on results and maintaining positive performances that have been seen in wins over West Brom and Coventry and in pieces of the defeat at Leeds.

He is hoping to construct a consistency after constant swaying between streaks – hence why he is attempting to ensure the focus remains on his side rather than elsewhere.

“We have to make sure that we are independent and this is what I wanted to say when I said ‘let’s make sure we look after ourselves’.

“We have to make sure we are independent from the opponent, from home or away games, from all the things that you cannot influence.

“We have to be focused on our game in ball possession, how we can improve this, what we can do better, what we have already done good, what we have to continue and in defence as well – that we know how we defend, when we like to squeeze, how we like to press so that we are independent to whoever is in front of us.

“Yes, there are certain specifics, and QPR have specifics that make you adapt a little bit, but it’s about doing our idea on the highest possible level plus show the energy and hunger that you have to show to be successful in a competitive environment.”

QPR find themselves in a much-improved spot under Marti Cifuentes, although they still sit inside the dreaded bottom three.

The Pink Un: David Wagner is aiming to guard against complacency as City travel to relegation-threatened QPR.David Wagner is aiming to guard against complacency as City travel to relegation-threatened QPR. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Seven points from a possible nine has left them in a more positive position with the Rs beginning to show improvement in their attacking output. They rank mid-table for their defensive efforts this term, and Wagner is not taking the challenge lightly, regardless of their current league position.

“The truth is, in the last three games, they have made more points than us,” Wagner said. “This speaks for itself. In the last 15 games they have conceded fewer goals than us and we’ve conceded only one per game.

“This speaks for itself as well. It’s a tight pitch, tight stadium and I don’t know if the pitch is in the best condition at this stage of the year. It’s a difficult task.

“We are aware about it and we have to be on it with our mindset. We have to be as sharp, aggressive and hungry as we were in games like against Coventry, and then stick to our idea that we like to play proper football.

“If we can bring this together, then we can cause every team, including QPR, problems, but we have to be at our best.

“It makes sense to respect them, be aware of everything that they can do in ball possession and without ball possession, and we are, but to make sure that we look after ourselves and do everything that we like to do on the highest possible level.”

If there was any ounce of complacency heading to Loftus Road this afternoon, then Norwich need to look no further than the reverse fixture between the two sides, which they won 1-0 despite being comfortably second-best for the majority of the encounter.

The Pink Un: Isaac Hayden is set to face Norwich City in the blue and white of QPR this afternoon.Isaac Hayden is set to face Norwich City in the blue and white of QPR this afternoon. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Cifuentes has made improvements, and the hope is that January reinforcements, including ex-City loanee Isaac Hayden, will allow them to drag themselves clear of danger in the second half of the campaign.

That is why Wagner is attempting to keep standards high as his team go in search of back-to-back wins for the second time this year.

“It’s a team where I am super sure that they will survive,” he said on Saturday’s opponents. “They have enough and have a good style.

“They like to play football and are a footballing team. They have individual qualities, especially offensive players who can cause everyone problems.

“We have to be at our very best. Saturday, we know how difficult this task is but challenges are part of our life. We love to be competitive, and we will be there.”

Wagner has spoken at length in recent weeks about the importance of City keeping their frontline options fit after a difficult autumn – with Jon Rowe and Danny Batth said to be included in the matchday squad this afternoon.

They will be without experienced defender Shane Duffy, however, but Wagner believes he has a group capable of rolling with the punches.  

The Pink Un: Shane Duffy is missing for City's trip to Loftus Road this afternoon.Shane Duffy is missing for City's trip to Loftus Road this afternoon. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

“If we have all of our squad healthy, then we are competitive. We said this from more or less the first day of pre-season, and everything that we’ve seen so far, in both scenarios, backed this.

“If everyone is ready to go, we are super competitive, and if we have more than one or two injuries or a proper injury crisis like we faced, then you will have problems that we have to solve,” Wagner said.

“Now, we are in the position with 16 games to go where we still have one or the other injury; last weekend, it was Jonny Rowe and Danny Batth, and this weekend, it is (Shane) Duffy.

“It will always happen, but if it’s only for a few weeks, it is different than for two or three months. Then suddenly, you have four or five players injured, and this will cause any team in this league huge problems.

“We have left this behind us and will deal with every situation that we face. We have enough experience now that we will take everything on the chin and go and attack.”

Three points at Loftus Road coupled with results this afternoon swinging in their favour mean Norwich could end the day inside the top six for the first time since September.

After a month of building, it is their chance to continue their progress. Victory this afternoon would be another indication they are on the right track.