Norwich manager Paul Lambert has labelled speculation linking him a summer move to Aston Villa as "extremely unfair".
The pressure is increasing on Villa boss Alex McLeish as the Midlands club struggle to stay clear of the relegation dogfight, having been beaten 2-1 at home draw by Bolton in midweek.
By contrast, Lambert has steered the Canaries up into 13th place, with their top-flight status all but secured for another season, some 10 points clear of danger heading into tomorrow's visit of Liverpool.
The former Celtic midfielder, 42, accepts transfer rumours about players and even managers is all part and parcel of the game, but insists reports suggesting he was being lined up by Villa owner Randy Lerner as a summer replacement for McLeish were unwelcome.
"Speculation about players is something you can never do anything about. It happens with managers as well and you can never stop that," the Norwich manager told a press conference.
"If my players get linked with other teams, there is not a thing I can do about that. It is the same situation about myself.
"However, it is extremely unfair with me being linked with Aston Villa when they have got a really good manager up there who is doing everything he can to stay in the league.
"It is an unfair comment for me to say anything on that."
Liverpool may not be challenging for the championship, but they have already brought the Carling Cup back to Anfield and next weekend have another Wembley date as they aim to beat Champions League finalists Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
Seven defeats in 10 Premier League games - including a 1-0 home reverse to West Brom last time out - have left the Reds well off the pace in the race for a top-four finish.
Lambert, though, is not expecting anything other than another stern test of how far his own squad have come since rising up through succesive promotions from npower League One.
"It is more highlighted because of the club they are," said the former Colchester boss.
"I don't need to lift the players because the game itself will lift them.
"We will certainly have to lift it because I think Liverpool are a top side.
"Some of the players they have got are outstanding. The history and the tradition they have got is such that we have to step it up."
Lambert added: "Liverpool have won the Carling Cup, they are in the final of the FA Cup. The fan base is huge, Kenny (Dalglish) is a massive presence and they are still a fantastic side. I don't think anybody should underestimate that.
"Their performances have been good, but the results have gone against them, which happens, so I am under no illusions of how hard it is going to be.
"We will have to play to our max."
Norwich have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, winning at Tottenham on Easter Monday only to then be thumped 6-1 at home by title-chasing Manchester City and losing 2-0 at relegation battlers Blackburn last time out.
Lambert, though, remains positive.
He said: "The Manchester City match was perhaps a game too far because we had played Everton and then on the Monday after we played Tottenham. Maybe the three games took their toll.
"The energy was there against Blackburn. I just thought we never got up to the standard we had set.
"We have to bounce back and I am sure we will."
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