Free-fall isn’t a term Norwich supporters would envisage using to describe their side as a 10-game unbeaten run came to an end three days before Christmas. But since that defeat against West Brom 49 days ago Chris Hughton’s side haven’t won any of their last seven Premier League fixtures and goals have become harder to come by. Hughton has attempted to solve that issue with the January signing of Luciano Becchio from Leeds and the 54-year-old will be praying that the Argentinian can find the net on his home debut as comes up against managerial mentor Martin Jol. Retribution will take precedent over sentiment for Hughton after he started his Canaries reign off with 5-0 opening day hammering at Craven Cottage, and will undoubtedly be pushing his side to lift themselves out of their current rut with a much needed victory.
Fulham are in a similar mid-table bind, sitting one place above the hosts in 13th on goal difference, having won just three out of their last 17 league matches, but will be buoyed after an improved performance against Manchester United last week. Jol has done well to pick the club up from losing Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele in the summer and in Dimitar Berbatov he has a ready-made match winner in his arsenal when his mood is channeled in the right direction. He certainly has cause to be optimistic given their record of nine wins in their last 11 meetings with Norwich.
Anthony Pilkington is missing for Norwich after picking up a hamstring injury in the 0-0 draw with QPR. New signings Kei Kamara and Luciano Becchio could make their home debuts.
Fulham will be able to call upon Brede Hangeland despite being forced off against Manchester United last Sunday, while Dimitar Berbatov faces a fitness test after sitting out the defeat to his old club.
What the managers said…
“Martin is a very good coach and manager and it was no surprise that after leaving Tottenham he went to Hamburg and Ajax. He is someone I have a lot of time for. In my time at Tottenham I probably worked closer with him than any of the other managers. We got on very well. I certainly learned from him, the way he sets up his teams and what he wants from them, the relationships he has with players. I learned an enormous amount from him.” Chris Hughton says he is looking forward to facing managerial mentor Martin Jol (Sporting Life)
“I feel that if you leave it until the end of the season [to get points] then you are always going to have a problem, and you don’t want that – no club would want that. What I always feel is that if you’ve got 35, 36 points as soon as possible – before the last couple of months of the season – then you could be fine. But you need the points because with the amount we’ve got now, and other teams have got now, we’ll go down. So you need four or five wins and 40 points is a sort of focus, a target for us.” Martin Jol says he is only focused on leading Fulham to the magic 40-point mark (Fulham official club website)
Norwich have never beaten Fulham when they’ve met in the top-flight and their last victory over the Cottagers was a 2-1 success in the old Second Division on 29 March 1986.
Prediction: Norwich City 2-2 Fulham