West Ham United-Norwich City Preview
Norwich City may be going down, but they have the chance to drag West Ham United down with them as the two bottom four sides meet in a crunch encounter Saturday at Carrow Road.
The Canaries (5-6-23) are all but mathematically certain to be shuttling back to the Championship after a season in the top flight. They must win their remaining four matches and get loads of help to overtake any three-team combination that includes the Irons, Watford, Bournemouth, and Aston Villa.
Daniel Farke's side have failed to take a point in five matches during Project Restart, and their skid in league play hit six following a frustrating 2-1 loss at Watford on Tuesday. Emi Buendia got Norwich City off to a bright start with a goal in the fourth minute - ending a 474-minute goalless drought that dated to February - but Watford pulled level just six minutes later.
A well-struck bicycle kick in the second half by Denny Welbeck consigned the Canaries to a defeat that all but ended their hopes of staying in the Premier League for back-to-back terms for the first time since a three-season run from 2011-14.
"I feel really sorry for the lads because our situation even before the game was, let's be honest, pretty hopeless," Farke told the club's official website. "Nevertheless, we wanted to go out and to fight for the points and that's exactly what we did today.
"I think we were the better side in many, many topics. We had more possession, we had more chances, shots, won many more duels, we invested a lot. We have to then accept that the quality of the other team, it's not the best in the league, but the quality of their individuals is a little bit higher and for that I can't accuse my lads."
With little but pride to play for Farke may spend the final four matches looking at his side and contemplating life in the Championship once more. The 23-year-old Buendia, who has notched a team-best eight assists before landing his first Premier League goal, appears to be one of the foundational pieces for Norwich City's looming bid to gain promotion again.
"He's had difficult spells, but I've got the feeling he's learned his lesson and right now he's working with much more discipline and workload for the team," Farke said of the Argentine midfielder. "If you play with this team spirit, you'll get your reward, that's what he deserved today, he's been working pretty hard during the last games and it was good for his confidence."
West Ham (8-7-19) are fighting for their survival, entering this contest in 16th ahead of Watford on goal difference but only three points clear of the drop. The Irons missed an opportunity to create some separation for themselves Wednesday in a frustrating 1-0 home loss to Burnley.
Despite a season-best 21 shots, only five found their way on target, but what really chafed David Moyes was the lack of a VAR review on a yellow card Burnley defender James Tarkowski received early in the second half. Moyess was incandescent Tarkowski wasn't sent off for his late challenge on Jarrod Bowen.
"Look, it's a red card," Moyes told The Times. "It's not going to change the result [now], it might have done during the game. It's really disappointing the referee didn't see it as a red card.
"The linesman is very close to it. And we also have the chance to go to VAR and then make a decision on it."
West Ham are trying to avoid being relegated for the first time in nine seasons but do have the benefits of having the best goal difference and most goals scored among the five teams involved in the relegation scrap. And the chance to gain three points while heaping more misery on Norwich City is not lost on keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
"We realise our situation and there is no point being negative and thinking today's game was just bad luck," he said. "When you put all the things together, we were unlucky when it came to taking some of our chances today.
"There were some good moments, there were some bad moments, but we have to see Norwich as another great opportunity to get to a strong position in the table and further away from the bottom three, and that's what we'll try to do."
Striker Sebastian Haller, the team's leading scorer in league play with seven goals, could be inserted back into the first XI after making his return from injury Wednesday. Additionally, Robert Snodgrass could be available for selection as he nears a return from a back injury.
Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko scored on either side of halftime in the reverse fixture, a 2-0 Hammers win. West Ham have never done a Premier League double over Norwich City.
Updated July 10, 2020