Preview: Norwich v Fulham

Clive Rose

Fulham travel to Carrow Road in desperate need of the points their recently improved displays demand. A series of winnable matches could drag the Cottagers out of the relegation zone and lend substance to the thus far aesthetic Meulensteen Revolution.

Thus far, the Meulensteen Revolution has been largely an aesthetic one. Since Rene Meulensteen took over as Fulham's head man, the Cottagers have shipped ten goals in four matches and gained only three points. That said, have you seen a more encouraging continuation of bad results?

I feel like I've been given a quick tour of a flipped house. Granite countertops. Brand new brushed aluminum appliances. Tiled backsplash in the kitchen. Is that laminate or hardwood? I know I should be asking about the wiring, plumbing, and foundation right now, but I'm finally moving out of that outdated embarrassment with the stained shag carpet and linoleum bathroom and I don't want to be practical just yet.

Well, practicality is just around the corner.

Fulham travel to Carrow Road on Boxing Day to take on a Norwich side wallowing along with the Cottagers at the wrong end of the table. Matches against Hull City and fellow strugglers West Ham and Sunderland follow immediately thereafter. Encouraging losses against some of the luminary clubs of the Premier League have given the Fulham faithful cause for hope, but now it's time for Meulensteen's renovations to bear fruit and for Fulham to move out of the relegation zone.

Norwich have drawn two and won one in their last three matches and will like their chances against a Fulham side that has yet to gain much from their recent positive displays. Chris Hughton will be without Alex Tettey and Anthony Pilkington, but they remain long term losses that will be tempered somewhat by the Canaries' aforementioned recent run of form and the friendly confines of Carrow Road.

Fulham however, will be without Philippe Senderos, Brede Hangeland, and Matthew Briggs leaving Rene Meulensteen little depth in a defense that has been imbued with the Christmas spirit for the entire campaign. Dimitar Berbatov may also be absent for the second match in a row after picking up a groin injury prior to the Manchester City loss, although his absence is potentially less limiting than that of Philippe Senderos. Hang on, I have to take a moment to wrap my mind around just having written that...Ok, I'm back.

With Adel Taarabt having led the line very well against Manchester City, he could be deployed there again if Berbatov has not sufficiently recovered. I'd be surprised if Meulensteen did not opt again for his three man central midfield of Giorgos Karagounis, Scott Parker, and Steve Sidwell with some combination of Kieran Richardson, Ashkan Dejagah, and Alexander Kakaniklic playing the wide positions. Expect Fernando Amorebieta and his beard to deputize at center back for the injured Senderos. In other words, why change a dynamic side showing signs of life against superior competition, except where injury necessitates, when taking on a club more equally yoked?

Of course, this is the holiday program, and with the fixtures coming fast and furious, the toll on individual players, especially the likes of the recently brilliant Karagounis, often demands change. Regardless the players selected for Thursday's match, it's time for Fulham to start picking up points. I know what I want for Christmas, even if it is a day late.

COYW!


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