Fulham-Norwich City Preview
By JEFF FLETCHER
STATS European Editor
(AP) -- Norwich start their busy Christmas schedule with a home game with Fulham on Boxing Day, and manager Chris Hughton wants his side to be fully focused on what will be the first of four matches in 10 days.
"All our efforts and concentrations will be on getting a result," said Hughton. "We're going into two fixtures at home, which we're delighted to be doing over Christmas, and of course the first one is our game against Fulham.
"It's very much about us. Whoever we were playing on Boxing Day, it's a home tie and we'll go into every match certainly trying to get a result. It's been a difficult period for them and of course they've had a change of manager, but they've got some very good players which is something that hasn't changed,"
Norwich (5-4-8) played out a goalless draw at bottom-club Sunderland on Saturday and are undefeated in their last three Premier League matches. There was speculation about Hughton's future at Carrow Road when Norwich dropped into the bottom three earlier in the season, but now the Canaries are in 14th place and six points clear of the relegation zone.
Fulham (4-1-12) lost eight of their last nine league matches and have dropped in the bottom three.
They were beaten 4-1 at Everton and 4-2 at home by Manchester City in their last two matches and although there have been some promising offensive performances since Rene Meulensteen replaced the sacked Martin Jol as head coach at the start of the month, results have been poor.
Meulensteen admits Fulham must improve their defensive play, but insists the results will improve when they tighten things up at the back.
"It's both a concern and disappointing because every goal you concede, the question you need to ask is should we, or could we, have done better?" Meulensteen said. "And should we have done something about it? And, if you can, you have to do something about it.
"The upcoming games are crucial. We need to look back to these previous games where we've had a fantastic performance, but not enough points on the board. Those performances, now, we need to turn into results and make sure that we get more points on the board. They are definitely games that we're looking at to get something out of, for sure."
Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson faces a late fitness test on a back problem, but Scotland defender Russell Martin is available after recovering from an ankle injury.
Fulham will be without defender Philippe Senderos (leg), but striker Dimitar Berbatov could return to the squad after responding well to treatment on a muscle problem.
Fulham took four points off Norwich last season, including a 5-0 thrashing of the Canaries at Craven Cottage. Mladen Petric scored twice while Damien Duff, Alex Kacaniklic and Steve Sidwell also found the net for the Cottagers. Norwich held Fulham to a scoreless draw at Carrow Road in February.
The Cottagers have lost four straight away Premier League matches, getting outscored 13-1 in those games. Their last away win was a 4-1 triumph at Crystal Palace in late October.
Updated December 24, 2013