Norwich City boss Dean Smith knows his side must be “streetwise” in their fight against relegation from the Premier League.
The Canaries host Crystal Palace on Wednesday night looking for a third straight league win, with confidence boosted by a 3-0 victory at Watford before the winter break and then dispatching Wolves to secure a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Norwich, though, could find themselves back in the relegation zone come kick-off at Carrow Road should results go against them on Tuesday night.
Smith knows the battle to stay up is far from over and has challenged his players to show their mettle in the challenges ahead.
“Game management is something that we speak about quite a bit,” said Smith, who took over following the departure of Daniel Farke in November.
“Players will have watched, learned and experienced other teams get to be good at game management and I think that is a natural progression for a team to learn things like that.
“They have to be streetwise. It is a league we are playing in where there are a lot of streetwise players in amongst it and if you don’t learn very quickly, then you can lose out.”
Smith, who arrived at Carrow Road shortly after his dismissal by Aston Villa, added: “I don’t think we have been coaching being streetwise, but I think it is something they will all learn.
“They will see the opposition players who they are playing against and seeing what the top players are doing.
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“Usually players become magpies and pinch things off other players that can help their own games – and if that is becoming streetwise for us, then so be it.
“As a squad, I think that they are starting to understand what is required to compete at this level and to win games, which is the most important thing for me.”
Heading into the midweek Premier League fixtures, Norwich sit just a point above the relegation zone, with the teams below them all having at least one match still in hand.
Smith, though, will not lose any sleep over the current state of the standings.
“I would rather be where I am, with the points in the bag already, because you have still got to go and earn those points,” said Smith, who has a doubt over American forward Josh Sargent through illness.
“There is obviously going to be games tonight (Tuesday), so the table can change before we even start our game tomorrow. That is the way it is going to be and we just have to take it game by game.”
Norwich host Premier League leaders Manchester City on Saturday and then travel to Anfield the following weekend.
Smith, though, wants full focus on the here and now.
“I don’t care if it is Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea or whoever is coming next. It is just the next game,” he said.
“It is an available three points – and I will be saying the same when we play Man City as well.”
Smith added: “We know how good Palace are and can be. We will respect the opposition, but we won’t fear them.
“Having won four of the past five games, with three clean sheets, it breeds confidence and our squad looks a lot healthier now.”
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