Norwich head coach Dean Smith knows time is running out on his side’s battle for Premier League survival as they prepare for Saturday’s “must not lose” showdown with Brentford.
The Canaries sit bottom of the table, five points from safety, following a run of three straight league defeats.
However, victory over a Brentford side who have lost seven of the past eight league games would breath fresh life back into the survival bid – and also drag teams above them into the equation again.
“I don’t think anything is a must-win at the moment, but it is certainly a ‘must not lose’,” Smith said at a press conference.
“We are going into each game that we have to try to win. We know we are running out of games, there are a dozen left.
“It is a big game for both teams – a loss against them means they are 10 points ahead of us as well.
“They are one of the clubs who came up with us last season and we all know how hard it is to stay in the league in the first season.
“We feel we are ready and have a fairly full squad to go into it as well.”
Following such a positive start to their campaign, the Bees now sit only three points above the drop zone and having played more games than the teams below them.
Smith was manager at Griffin Park before he left for Aston Villa, with his assistant Thomas Frank promoted to the hotseat in October 2018.
“I had three great years at Brentford. You could see the direction they were going in,” said Smith, who took over at Norwich in November last year not long after parting company with Villa.
“Brentford are a strong squad and they have proved that.
“If you have been promoted then you have usually been winning, but when you start losing it is a different feeling.”
Norwich were knocked out of the FA Cup following a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday night, where both sides had made expected sweeping changes.
Smith felt it was a much improved display from seeing too many “six out of 10” performances from his players when well beaten 2-0 at Southampton in their last league game.
“I thought our standards dropped against Southampton, but we got back to where we wanted to be against Liverpool,” he said.
Norwich full-backs Max Aarons and Brandon Williams both missed the trip to Anfield with minor knocks but have resumed training, so will be available again.
Captain Grant Hanley should also return to the side having been suspended for the cup tie.
Teenage forward Jonathan Rowe impressed when coming off the bench in the second half, and forced a smart save from Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson which would have levelled the match at 2-2.
Given Norwich’s lack of firepower up front so far this season – managing only 15 goals in 26 league games – there have been calls for the 18-year-old to be handed an extended run in the team.
Smith, though, will take things one step at a time.
“He is a player that is progressing but he has got a long way to go,” the Norwich boss said.
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