Lambert hopes for the all-clear

Paul Lambert is just one of a clutch of Premier League managers praying their frontline troops come back in one piece following tonight’s friendly internationals.

Norwich City striker Steve Morison is the only senior City star in action following Welsh colleague Andrew Crofts’ (ankle) withdrawal from Gary Speed’s squad to play Australia in Cardiff.

The 27-year-old forward will be keen to open his senior account as he bids to win only his sixth cap in an effort to force his way into Speed’s plans for upcoming European Championship qualifiers. Morison is the only target man left in Speed’s party following Sam Vokes’ injury exit with the Welsh boss using tonight’s outing to fine tune his plans to host Montenegro early next month before a glamour trip to Wembley to face England.

Lambert’s sole concern centres around Morison returning fit and well for City’s eagerly-anticipated Premier League opener this weekend at Wigan. The Canaries’ chief refused to be publicly drawn on the merits of international friendlies just three days before the league kick off when questioned following City’s pre-season finale against Parma.

But Lambert has already ruled Elliott Ward and James Vaughan out of the trip to the Latics with ankle injuries suffered during the club’s German training camp. Crofts and Scotland international Russell Martin (calf) also picked up knocks on City’s return to England.

He said: “Apart from Adam (Drury’s) slight muscle strain we have been quite fortunate in pre-season. Playing games you expect to pick up impact injuries. That is the nature of football and unfortunately we have had one or two.”

Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez accepts his planning for the Canaries’ visit is set to be disrupted by losing some of his senior players. The Spainard has been more than satisfied with the Latics’ pre-season build-up, which culminated with a home win over Champions League outfit Villarreal last weekend.

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He said: “We lose the players for the international break but when they come back on Thursday it is time to re-group for the important part of the season. It’s fair to say it has been an intense pre-season and I am delighted in the manner the players have approached it. We have had three different environments and we were treated well in Sweden, Austria and just finishing off in this country. Villarreal was a fantastic exercise. They are a real example of how to play in between the lines. Tactically they are really cute and I felt for the concentration levels of our players it couldn’t have been a harder test.”

Martinez’s skipper Gary Caldwell is on Scotland duty tonight in their Hampden friendly against Denmark, but the defender believes the international disruption could work in his favour.

He said: “A lot of people say it is a funny time to have an international break but whenever you get an opportunity to come and play for your country you look forward to it and want to do as best you can. A lot of players are not up to speed, but it’s a game to go and get match fitness for the big games coming up – whether it’s the start of a league or the qualifiers.

“You play football to win and winning games breeds confidence. The Premier League tests you every single week. The challenge it provides with each team is different.

“The players are physical and the standard is very high. As a player you have to raise your game and adapt to that and with experience you always get better. I’m certainly looking forward to the coming season.”