Norwich V Stoke at Carrow Road - Match Preview

Norwich manager Chris Hughton insists Stoke are the perfect role model for any aspiring top-flight team like his own.

The Canaries earned a hugely-impressive 12th place finish last season after returning to the Barclays Premier League, but they have found the going tough this year.

Just two points separate City and their visitors Stoke this weekend, but the bookmakers consider Hughton's side far more likely to go down to the npower Championship this year.

The Potters were also tipped for a swift return to the second tier after the won promotion in 2008, but they have since gone on to record steady mid-table finishes in the four years that have followed and they have also played in Europe by virtue of their FA Cup final appearance last summer.

Their long-ball game often attracts criticism, but Hughton, who took over at Carrow Road this season, thinks the Staffordshire club should be viewed as a shining example of how teams can get promoted and stay there with relative stability.

"They are an excellent role model for the likes of ourselves," Hughton said. "In this division after getting promotion you normally have a few tough years but they have improved every year and have brought in better quality every year.

"They are is a very well established Premier League team now.

"I'm sure they couldn't bring in someone of the quality of Michael Owen six or seven years ago."

Norwich defender Russell Martin is making a good recovery from his back injury and could be fit for the clash.

Striker Harry Kane, on loan from Spurs, is on course to return before Christmas following foot surgery.

Meanwhile, Stoke boss Tony Pulis is backing Norwich to preserve their Premier League status under Hughton.

Pulis was at the Spurs match and is predicting that with the squad Hughton has at his disposal, Norwich will avoid the drop.

"I went to watch the game and Chris made a lot of changes. They are well set up," Pulis said.

"Looking at the strength of what he played on Wednesday, I think they will be fine."

Pulis feels former Newcastle and Birmingham manager Hughton and his assistant Colin Calderwood and first-team coach Paul Trollope make for a good team, although the Potters boss believes they have been fortunate with what they have inherited at Norwich from Lambert.

Looking ahead to the clash, Pulis said: "It will be a tough game - they are full confidence and they have had some good results.

"They have got players who can hurt you.

"I think Chris has done a good job wherever he has been and Colin and Paul are very good assistants for him - they have both managed and understand what management is about.

"It is a good football club, always has been, and they have been very fortunate in some respects to take over a football club that was well-run before they got there as well.

"As managers - and Chris will be the first one to point this out - nine times out of 10 you are taking jobs because the club has not been successful.

"They actually took over a job where the club had been very successful. Paul had left that football club in a good state."

Stoke will be without Marc Wilson for the game.

Andy Wilkinson is expected to fill in at left-back against the Canaries for Wilson, who is set to be out of action for three months after sustaining a fractured left fibula in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Sunderland.

Midfielder Glenn Whelan was not deemed fit enough to take part in that match but is now available for selection again having recovered from his hamstring problem, while Pulis has indicated winger Matthew Etherington - used mostly as a substitute this term - could be line for a return to the first XI.

Source: PA

Source: PA