Safri rated touch and go

Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington is sweating on the fitness of influential midfielder Youssef Safri ahead of Saturday's crunch home clash against Stoke.

Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington is sweating on the fitness of influential midfielder Youssef Safri ahead of Saturday's crunch home clash against Stoke.

The Moroccan international was substituted during the humiliating 4-1 defeat at Crystal Palace after taking a nasty blow on the hip and is rated as “touch and go” for the weekend.

If Safri fails to make it then a fit again Andy Hughes will be battling it out with Carl Robinson and Dickson Etuhu for two positions in the centre of the park.

There is certain to be one change, with Simon Charlton coming into replace the suspended Adam Drury at left-back - and there could also be one or two other new faces in the team as the Canaries attempt to get the wholly unacceptable performance at Selhurst Park out of their systems.

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Paul McVeigh and Leon McKenzie will both be hoping for call-ups after turning in satisfactory displays from the bench against Palace - with Jonatan Johansson and Peter Thorne likely to be most under threat should Worthington decide to act.

“We will have to consider making some changes,” he said. “There are one or two that we will have to have a little look at because it was a very, very disappointing and frustrating performance.

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“You'll have to wait and see what happens - there are options there and we'll do the right thing for us.”

As far as Safri's availiabity is concerned Worthington is keeping his fingers crossed - but is clearly steeling himself for some bad news.

“Saf took a nasty knock and he will be very much touch and go as far as Saturday is concerned,” he said.

“It's easing but there is a lot of bruising. It will be a case of how comfortable he is with the situation.”

Hughes is now back in training after recovering from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the Palace trip, while Etuhu staked his claim for a recall with a solid 90 minutes for the reserves on Monday night. So it will be interesting to see what the manager decides to do if his playmaker is ruled out.

Worthington is expecting the team he does select to bounce straight back from last weekend's embarrassing no-show with a highly committed performance against a mid-table Stoke outfit.

“I was disappointed with Saturday, and rightly so,” said the City boss. “But it has been and gone and now I'm looking forward to the next game.

“Since the lads returned to training they have been excellent, very good. They have been upbeat and the quality has been very good too. That is what they have got to deliver against Stoke. Hopefully all the hard work will stand us in good stead.

“I'm expecting what they give us 90 per cent of the time - and that's a whole-hearted, committed performance. Their ability is not in question - they have just got to out there and play. To do that you have got to work hard, pass the ball well and try and score some goals.

“What you saw last weekend has happened to many teams over the years - and it has happened to us three of four times this season which I am certainly not happy about. But it's there and you have got to deal with it in the best way you can.”

The Canaries go into tomorrow's game nine points off the play-off zone, with sixth placed Preston having played two fewer games but Worthington isn't prepared to throw in the towel just yet.

“We have got 10 games left and we are hoping to win every single one of them,” he said. “When you lose one the hill becomes a little bit steeper but it is still there to be conquered, that's how we see it.

“You never ever give in in this game.”

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