So, the Championship is back for 2017/18 and Fulham kick off their season against seasoned opposition in Norwich City. The Canaries were expected to push for promotion last season and will be determined to make up for lost time in this campaign.
Alex Neil was sacked unceremoniously towards the tail end of the last Championship season and the new man in charge is Daniel Farke, who was poached from Dortmund II. The German was rated extremely highly at the Westfalenstadion and BVB were extremely reluctant to let him go. Having been under the tutelage of both Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, it’s easy to understand why.
That said, on-field personnel changes at Carrow Road have been steady rather than spectacular. There are three Germans who have followed Farke across the Channel, none of whom we’re particularly any the wiser about – centre back Marcel Franke from Greuther Fürth, and Darmstadt midfielder Mario Vrancic; as well as Christophe Zimmermann who played under Farke at Dortmund II.
There are a few players we have heard of as well – notably Marley Watkins who joined on a free from Barnsley and former Fulham loanee James Husband, both of whom have Championship experience. They’ve loaned Southampton starlet Harrison Reed to provide cover in the central areas and Man City’s Angus Gunn to fill the hole between the sticks left by the departures of John Ruddy and Declan Rudd.
Norwich will be upset to have lost their own Academy jewel in Jacob Murphy, who left for Newcastle after an impressive European Championships with the England U21 squad; and they’ve also lost their metronomic midfielder Johnny Howson, who left to join promotion rivals Middlesbrough.
Much of the old guard left in the changeover, with stalwarts such as Sebastian Bassong, Steven Whittaker, Ryan Bennett and Youssuf Mulumbu joining Ruddy in departing for pastures new, as well as Graham Dorrans heading north of the border to join Rangers.
Farke has had a full pre-season to stamp his mark on the players old and new, and we can expect a rejuvenated and exciting Norwich side to come up against the Whites on Saturday. Interestingly, Norwich haven’t come to Craven Cottage and won since 1986, and a win on Saturday would be only a second in the last 20 competitive meetings between the two sides, which does provide a certain level of hope for Fulham fans – Canaries fans regard the Whites as very much their bogey team.
There’s only so much we can say for sure at this stage, but Norwich fans in general seem upbeat with the new administration and happy with the way pre-season has gone – the Canaries are unbeaten, although the quality of opposition faced is somewhat questionable.
Doubtless they will be firing and ready to attempt to break their duck and get their own promotion bid off to the best possible start however, and Fulham will have to come out of the blocks quickly if the Whites are to start the season in the manner we all expect.
- D: Norwich City 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
- W: Charlton Athletic 0-2 Norwich City
- W: Arminia Bielefeld 1-3 Norwich City
- W: Cambridge United 0-2 Norwich City
- D: Stevenage 2-2 Norwich City
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
To be perfectly honest this is as much of a guess as anything else because we have no real indication of how severe the injuries to Mcdonald, Cairney, Kebano and Bettinelli are, so give us a bit of leeway. We’re going to take a punt and say that we think seeing TC is probably unlikely, so we’re opting for Piazon in the 10 role in the meantime.
There’s also the question mark over whether Kamara will be fit enough to get a start, but we’ve plumped for him leading the line because as we’ve seen, Slavisa isn’t afraid to chuck them in at the deep end!
Lucas Piazon v Harrison Reed
We’ve gone for a little bit of a rogue one in a game where key battles are hard to predict because the lineups could change at any given moment, but this is an interesting battle if it comes to fruition. Bearing in mind that we’re assuming Cairney to be out, Piazon is going to have to prove his worth in a role which has belonged to one man for a long time.
Harrison Reed’s place isn’t tethered down either, but he did start in the holding role in Norwich’s last pre-season friendly and, having been handed the No4 shirt, looks like he might be a smart bet. The Southampton man is an accomplished player on his day and will be looking to use this year in the Championship to prove his worth to his parent club, so you’d imagine he’s going to have a point to prove.
Two young loanees looking to prove a point. Could be fireworks.
Norwich have all the aspects that could cause Fulham problems. Their pre-season has seen them in a number of formations across games, switching between them fluidly to allow for changes in the game. Farke will have them well-drilled and hungry for a good start, but we think Fulham will have more than enough to cause them problems as well. We’re going 2-1 Fulham with a nervy finish.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to the first game of the campaign, and make sure that you come and say hi to us outside the Cottage on Saturday afternoon.