Safri has score to settle with Stoke
DAVID CUFFLEY Midfielder Youssef Safri will be thinking of club before country as Norwich City embark on a revenge mission at Carrow Road. The 30-year-old crowd favourite has been called up for African Nations' Cup duty for Morocco during the Canaries' two-week break from action, which begins after the Coca-Cola Championship home match against promotion play-off hopefuls Stoke City.
Midfielder Youssef Safri will be thinking of club before country as Norwich City embark on a revenge mission at Carrow Road tomorrow.
The 30-year-old crowd favourite has been called up for African Nations' Cup duty for Morocco during the Canaries' two-week break from action, which begins after the Coca-Cola Championship home match against promotion play-off hopefuls Stoke City (3pm).
But Safri is putting his trip to Harare to the back of his mind in order to focus totally on the clash with the Potters.
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He said: “I have a game against Zimbabwe in the African Nations Cup on March 25 and I'm looking forward to that, but the only thing on my mind at the moment is getting three points against Stoke.
“The last game against Stoke we lost 5-0, but I didn't play because I was injured, which was frustrating for me. The players are looking forward to the chance to put that right.”
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The Canaries' mauling at the Britannia Stadium in October came in only the third Championship match of Peter Grant's reign as manager, but Safri believes City are now in better shape to trouble the Midlands side, who boosted their chances of a top six finish with four points from their last two games.
Tuesday's 1-0 win over Birmingham was, said Safri, “a really good night”.
He said: “We worked very hard, starting from the first, second, third minute through to the 90th minute. I think every player could be pleased with what he did.
“If you saw the games against Derby and Birmingham we played really good football. We have played very well against the top teams and it's frustrating that we're not next to them, but we lost too many games and we've had too many draws.”
Safri took the official sponsors' man of the match award against Birmingham, but was keen to spread the credit around for City's double over the Championship leaders.
He said: “I was happy with the award but everyone worked hard to get the three points and there were other players, such as Darren Huckerby, who scored a really good goal, who deserved it.”
The Moroccan has been in and out of Grant's plans over the past five months but after missing the trip to Preston and making a brief appearance as a substitute against former club Coventry, he has started the last five matches.
He said: “There have been a lot of games and yes, there is tiredness but to be honest, I have been in this league four years and it's not a problem for me. I don't think it's an excuse to let ourselves down.
“I'm happy at the moment, everything is fine. I'm playing every game at the moment and I want to work hard to stay in the team.”
Safri almost scored from a free-kick against the Blues on Tuesday as he and Simon Lappin continue to brush up their double act, both having scored from dead-ball opportunities.
He said: “We prepare our free-kicks in training once or twice every week. I think it was a really good one and a good save from the 'keeper. But it may be me, it may be Simon to take them because he is very good at them and sometimes it just depends which side it's on.”
Grant has no fresh injury concerns after the Birmingham game, with Luke Chadwick suffering no reaction to his brief outing as substitute and hoping to be involved against his former club, and skipper Adam Drury none the worse after landing on his back again.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis may be without defender Gabriel Zakuani, who was injured during Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Sunderland, while on-loan Lee Hendrie is out with a knee injury. But ex-Canary Darel Russell looks a certain starter in midfield.
Chadwick was among the scorers in Stoke's 5-0 win over City, after which Grant moved to take him on loan, later making the deal permanent for about £200,000.
“I was talking about him after the game to Tony,” said Grant. “That was the only reason I knew he could be available because he wanted to come back to this area, so with Lee Croft getting an injury in that game there was a bulb came on in my head and I said I'd be very much interested in taking him here. We got him in and thankfully, he's on our side and not the opposition side.
“We remember the last game but we don't see that as motivation because our team's changed a little bit since then.”
Chadwick said he was eager to be involved against his former team-mates.
He said: “They've got a strong team and they play a certain way. It's going to be tough to play against them, tough to break them down, I know that from first hand but I'm sure with the players we've got here we'll have a great chance of beating them.
“Everybody's got something to play for - our places for next season, our places for the next game.
“I still speak to a few of the Stoke lads and they're a good bunch. I'll be wishing them well but not on Saturday. Hopefully we'll come away with the three points and they'll have a long drive back to Staffordshire.
“Tony's a good manager, he gets results, plays a certain way, and he's a nice man as well.
“They like to play direct but they've got players who can play football as well.”