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Norwich City midfielder Gary O’Neil admits he loves the big stage ahead of Chelsea tussle

07:30 21 November 2015

Gary ONeil was a key figure in Norwich City's 1-0 Premier League win over Swansea. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Gary ONeil was a key figure in Norwich City's 1-0 Premier League win over Swansea. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Gary O’Neil has the same uneasy feeling as many Norwich City supporters facing a Chelsea side in desperate need of a Premier League boost after a lacklustre start to their title defence.

Jose Mourinho’s Blues are searching for a spark to haul themselves above the Canaries and back into familiar territory at the top of the Premier League. O’Neil, however, insists Alex Neil’s squad aim to delay that upturn.

“I’ve been thinking for weeks when is this going to turn so hopefully it lasts one more week,” he said. “It is remarkable that we are above them after so many games. I didn’t expect Chelsea to be anywhere near where they are and I am sure they won’t be for a massive length of time. I am surprised it has gone on as long as this. With the players and manager they have got they will bounce back in no time. We are not going there expecting it to be any easier just because they are on a bad run.

“We’ll go there with a gameplan and the points are just as important for us as Chelsea so we won’t be rolling over. When you go away to big sides the aim early on is always to try and frustrate them, but you need to do a bit more than that because you won’t last 90 minutes with that approach. You have to pose them some sort of threat and give them something to think about. It is a tough balance to find that attacking threat and defensive shape.” O’Neil views trips to Stamford Bridge as a reward for their toil last season.

“We worked very hard last year in the Championship to get the chance to show what we can do on this type of stage,” he said. “You want to play against one of the best sides in Europe and some of the best players and this is a chance to go there and see how good you are.

“I guess the tactics will be slightly different to how we set-up at Manchester City because Chelsea play a different formation but the lads did great in that game to frustrate them and add that threat on the counter. We had a couple of good chances up there with (Matt) Jarvis and Cameron (Jerome). That is the key - to make sure we are solid but have enough players in positions to cause them a threat.”

O’Neil earned praise from his manager for his pivotal role in the timely 1-0 league victory over Swansea City prior to the international break.

“We needed a win, regardless of how it came,” he said. “You can go right back to the West Ham game, when we played well and deserved the three points and didn’t get them, and then we went on a run with no points so we were desperate to get that win. The clean sheet was important as well. To go 11 league games without one isn’t a great start in that respect because you are having to score too many goals to guarantee yourself points.

“The manager put a plan in place and we made sure it worked. It is never easy to carry that out against a good passing side like Swansea. The one goal we scored managed to be enough and we now go to Chelsea full of optimism. Getting back-to-back wins in this league is massive.”

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