Norwich vs Fulham FA Cup Preview
Another year, another first weekend of January where FA Cup fever sweeps the nation.
For we Norwich fans, sometimes it can be a very bittersweet affair; Twice semi-finalists is as best as we've ever done in the competition, and last year's loss in the 4th round to Conference Luton Town probably ranks as one of the lowest points we've had not just in this competition, but in the club's existence in general.
Last season also raised an interesting question with regards to the winners, Wigan. They beat Man City in the final to lift the trophy in a terrific upset, but just a few days later were officially relegated from the Premier League.
So the question was posed- What would Wigan fans rather have had looking back? Winning the FA Cup and going down, or not winning the FA Cup and staying up?
Honestly, truthfully, I think most of them will still take the FA Cup and the memories that came from such a great occasion.
And if that's a scenario Norwich get faced with this season, then it's a scenario I'd take too.
Because lets face it, promotions and relegations will come and go, but memories like winning trophies, days out at Wembley and the good times that come with it are priceless, and last a lifetime.
Ok, we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. Admittedly having an all Premier-League tie in the 3rd round isn't ideal, but at least it's at home and it's a chance to to take a break from the stresses and strains of said league.
For Hughton, the pressure will remain more or less the same regardless of the result here. Progression or elimination at this stage really isn't a big deal.
But it does provide a chance to some of the fringe players to get valuable game time, and it also provides them with an opportunity to gain some revenge on Fulham after they took the points off of us on our own patch on Boxing Day.
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel finally looks likely to make his first start for City since October when his persistent toe problem first surfaced. Michael Turner is struggling with a hamstring problem while Jonny Howson has a back problem. Leroy Fer's red card against Palace in the league on New Year's Day means he's suspended for this one.
David Fox is back from a loan spell at Barnsley and is available to play - due to a shortage in midfield, he just might get a chance.
For Fulham, Clint Dempsey could make his return after re-signing for the club on a loan deal from Seattle Founders in the States. They'll be without goalie Martin Steklenburg who's still out with an ankle problem.
City - WDDLLD
Only one win in City's last six, which came away to West Brom. Since then they've drawn with Swansea, Sunderland and Palace respectively. There's the league defeat to Fulham chucked in there too, but defeat to United over the festive period was perhaps a little harsh.
Fulham - WLLWLW
Very mixed from Fulham's perspective. After beating Villa 2-0 at the Cottage they lost subsequent matches against Everton and Man City before recovering against Norwich with a 2-1 win at Carrow Road. Then they shipped in 6 goals from Hull City before turning their form around again by beating West Ham on New Years Day.
Last time we met
In probably the quickest re-match I can remember in Norwich's recent history, Fulham visited Carrow Road only a couple of weeks ago on Boxing Day. Gary Hooper had given the hosts the lead before goals from Kasami and a late one from Parker saw the visitors head back to West London with the spoils.
This fixture is one of only three all-Premier League ties in the FA Cup on Saturday.
What's in store this time?
I dare say there'll be some goals here as both sides have been shipping them lately, especially the visitors.
It'll be interesting to see how Van Wolfswinkel gets on if he starts as expected. Admittedly time is running out for him to impress and for him not to be considered a major flop considering his £8.5million price-tag.
With Howson injured and Fer suspended, we've two key midfielders missing which is a shame, though this is one area of the pitch we shouldn't be too concerned about in terms of the options Hughton has at his disposal.
Here's hoping for a good weekend, which for many is the last of their festive holidays before they go back to work on Monday.