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Match Preview: Fulham vs Norwich

Kyle
ANALYST
783   //    17 Aug 2012, 19:32 IST

Tomorrow, the season kicks off. That feels good to say. So good, I’m gonna do it again.

Tomorrow, the season kicks off…..!!!

Football’s back everyone.  I’m so excited, I called it football.  THAT’S HUGE.

Anyway, I digress. This is supposed to be a preview post, so let’s do some previewing.

State of Fulham:

This is the one chance in the season when everyone gets to say they’re in first place. It’s a clean slate, a wiping clean.  However, despite being level with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, and the newly promoted clubs all at the same time, Fulham still find themselves in an interesting state. Some would say a state of limbo. They’ve lost a large portion of last season’s goal production, and I don’t think many would say they’re done with the replacement process. Fulham will debut Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric in the goal production department, but it seems over the long haul, at least according to Martin Jol, the squad will require one or two more bodies, preferably younger bodies, to add to the assembly line.

Will Clint Dempsey feature in Fulham’s opening day match at Craven Cottage, despite the shroud of uncertainty surrounding his future? Most likely not.

Either way, unless Fulham unveil someone today, which isn’t likely, they will go into this match without those additions, which is completely fine, for now.  But soon, before the window closes, they will need to do some work.

For now though, it seems those two will be the front of the Fulham strike force, backed up by some youngsters. Alex Kacaniklic, Kerim Frei, and Pajtim Kasami could all get a chance in this match to be of assistance to the new help. It will be fans’ first look at what formation – and what players – Jol sees as his first choice. Seeing as this is the first match of the season, this is clearly the biggest question on everyone’s mind. One person you probably WON’T see in the lineup is Clint Dempsey. Despite the fact that many believe he’s the most complete and talented player on the Fulham roster, he most likely will not play in the match, or at least will begin on the bench. I guarantee if that happens, the club will cry fitness again, but there’s zero chance that it’s taking Dempsey this long to get fit. He rejoined the club even before Hugo Rodallega did because of an ankle injury Rodallega picked up, and Hugo even played in the last pre-season match.

State of Norwich:

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Like Fulham, Norwich fans will be curious to see how their squad shakes out, but for a different reason. Newly promoted last season, Norwich finished well above where anyone had expected them to, thanks in large part to manager Paul Lambert. This time around it will be Chris Hughton’s turn to guide Norwich, and an away test at Craven Cottage is always a tall task for any club in the bottom half.

I don’t believe the supporters realistically are expecting the same result as last year. Sure, it makes it seem much less unlikely now, but again the target for Norwich is to avoid relegation, and rightly so. However, I think they’ll have a good chance to do so. Besides their manager, they lost practically no one, including Grant Holt. This is a major strength for the club, as Hughton doesn’t have to fill any major gaps left void due to key pieces moving on, something Fulham is certainly facing at the moment, as are a number of other clubs. It’s something that will definitely give Norwich an advantage in the battle to save their Premier League spot. Consistency will be the name of the game here.

Head to head:

Last season, Fulham were able to pick up 4 points from the fixtures with Norwich, drawing away 1-1 and winning 2-1 at home.  In fact, Fulham have not lost in the last 10 occasions they’ve faced Norwich City.

By the numbers:

Some very Fulham-heavy stats to give you an idea what to expect -

  • The last time Fulham conceded a goal on opening day of the league at home: 2003
  • You have to go all the way back to 1989 to see the last time Fulham lost a league game at home on opening day. That was to Tranmere.
  • Fulham have been given just THREE red cards in the last three league seasons, and had only four sending offs.
  • Part of Norwich’s success last season: they had opponents hit the woodwork more than any other club: 26 times
  • Each of the last two opening day fixtures for Fulham have been 0-0 draws.

Something tells me it’s going to be a very dull match, but the sheer fact that it’s opening day of the league should offset most, if not all, of that. I’m going to say 1-0 to Fulham but a draw of 0-0 or 1-1 wouldn’t shock me either.

Let’s have another great season, shall we?

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