Norwich City-Fulham Preview
We will find out around 5.52pm local time on Saturday whether Norwich City’s gamble has paid off.
The Canaries took the huge risk of dismissing manager Chris Hughton with only five games left in the Premier League season following last Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
Norwich (8-8-17) currently lie in 17th place, five points ahead of weekend opponents Fulham (8-3-22) who occupy the final relegation slot.
With three of the top four plus a visit to Manchester United left to play, it’s hard to imagine the Canaries’ decision wasn’t made with the trip to Fulham in mind.
Norwich promoted Neil Adams, their Under-18’s coach, to the role of first team manager in the wake of Hughton’s dismissal.
The former Norwich midfielder is hopeful of a response from his players against a side who are as desperate for points as they are.
"They’re fighting for their lives with the rest of us, the teams down there, we all need points," Adams told the official club website.
"But with obviously what has happened here this week, this hopefully gives us a fresh impetus and if training is anything to go by we’re certainly going there with confidence. So you should have two teams that are right at it."
Fulham have not exactly been a paradigm of patience either this season. Current incumbent Felix Magath is their third ‘permanent’ coach of the season.
The former Bayern Munich boss believes last weekend’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa has lightened the mood sufficiently for his side to feel more confidence about preserving their status.
"At the moment we only have important games so last week we needed a win," Magath said in his weekly press conference. "Fortunately we got it, and it helps a lot with the atmosphere.
"You feel, this week, the players are free. They are laughing and so I think it was an important win as we go on fighting against relegation, and so we need another win in our next game and so we will try to do that on Saturday against Norwich."
The improvement in attitude notwithstanding, Magath knows his side must be wary of a wounded Norwich.
"Norwich have a very bad schedule and they have very, very difficult games ahead," he said. "They’ve changed the manager now so that will give them a new energy so we have to be careful as they will fight for 90 minutes, and it will not be an easy game for us."
The Canaries will not relish the trip to London. Fulham are unbeaten in seven Premier League matches against Norwich, with five wins and two draws, and numbered among those wins are 6-0 and 5-0 thrashings in two of the last three clashes at the Cottage.
Norwich’s last win over Fulham was in 1986 in the old second division.
The visitors have doubts over the fitness of Leroy Fer, Joseph Yobo and Ryan Bennett while Elliott Bennett is out.
Fulham will be without Kostas Mitroglou and Scott Parker but Giorgos Karagounis and Dan Burn are available. Darren Bent, on loan from Aston Villa, is available after being ineligible against his parent club last weekend.
The side’s most recent meeting was in a FA Cup third round replay this season in which the Cottagers ran out 3-0 winners through goals from Bent, Ashkan Dejagah and Steve Sidwell following a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road.
Fulham also won the reverse fixture 2-1 on Boxing Day. The Canaries took an early lead at Carrow Road through Gary Hooper before Pajtim Kasami levelled and Parker nicked all three points with a late winner.