This is another all-Premiership encounter this weekend and again, both managers will probably be placing little importance on the competition. In fact, with both of these outfits facing difficulties to stay in the top flight this time around, some would suggest that the FA Cup is an unwelcome distraction.
Despite investing millions in the transfer market through the summer, Norwich have struggled to match their performance from last season and are precariously looking over their shoulder as they occupy 15th position in the Premier League. Just three points separate them from the bottom three and after seemingly making progress a few weeks ago, Chris Hughton’s side find them right back in a relegation dogfight. Their recent form is poor and one win from their last seven matches means that again, their divisional status is starting to be questioned. They suffered a crucial 2-1 loss to Fulham less than two weeks ago and even though the Canaries will be looking to exert revenge, Hughton may also be under the impression that the FA Cup is an unwelcome disturbance and his team might be better concentrating their efforts on staying in the top flight.
Fulham on the other hand are making slow progress under Rene Meulensteen, although the Cottagers have at least managed to move out of the bottom three over the past few days. A 6-0 defeat to Hull at the end of December marked an all-time low for Meulensteen and supporters, although they responded in fantastic fashion following a crucial 2-1 victory over relegation rivals West Ham in their last outing. That win actually means that the Craven Cottage outfit have won two of their last three games, meaning that they have significantly better form than their opponents this weekend.
As for team news, Norwich are expected to hand some fringe players a game with Luciano Becchio and Ricky van Wolfswinkel both pushing for starts following restricted playing time. However, Chris Hughton will have to be without several players, with suspension preventing Leroy Fer from playing while Michael Turner and Jonny Howson are out through respective hamstring and back complaints. It’s mixed news for the visitors meanwhile, with the Cottagers first set to start Clint Dempsey after he returned to Craven Cottage on loan. There won’t be a place between the sticks for Martin Stekelenburg though, as an ankle injury prevents him from playing.
Both of these sides are struggling and it remains to be seen just how seriously their respective managers decide to take the FA Cup. Due to the lucrative nature of the Premiership now, we have a feeling that this competition will take a backseat and are therefore predicting a lacklustre goalless draw at Craven Cottage this time around.