MX23RW : Wednesday, February 20 08:19:36
Mar 1, 2016 at 7.45pm UK at ​Carrow Road
Attendance: 27,091
NorwichNorwich City
Redmond (68')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Kenedy (1'), Costa (45')

Preview: Norwich City vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole looks ahead to Tuesday's Premier League clash between relegation-threatened Norwich City and in-form Chelsea at Carrow Road.

Norwich City's survival bid continues on Tuesday night when they welcome Guus Hiddink's resurgent Chelsea to Carrow Road.

The Canaries are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference and could drop into the bottom three with a defeat by two or more goals, while Chelsea are bidding to climb to their highest league position since the opening day of the season.


Alex Neil Manager of Norwich City looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on December 12, 2015© Getty Images

Despite currently sitting outside the bottom three in the Premier League table, relegation continues to loom large for Norwich following a torrid run of form.

The bookmakers have them as favourites to go down alongside the current bottom two of Aston Villa and Sunderland, and it is hard to argue against that position on the evidence of the past two months.

No side has picked up fewer points than the Canaries over the past seven games, with Norwich managing a solitary draw and six defeats in that time. Even that draw would have felt like a defeat after they squandered a two-goal lead at home to West Ham United.

A two-week break followed that result before Norwich returned to action on Saturday against league leaders Leicester City and, while it ultimately ended in another defeat, there were at least positives for Alex Neil to take from that match.

Having conceded 21 goals in their previous seven outings in all competitions, Norwich frustrated and matched the league's highest scorers for long spells at the King Power Stadium before finally being undone by an 89th-minute Leonardo Ulloa goal.

It was the type of result that bore the sign of champions as far as the Foxes were concerned, but also the sign of relegation candidates for Norwich. Before kickoff, not many would have expected the Canaries to get anything from the game, but the way things played out would have made the last-gasp defeat even harder to take.

They should be able to pick up points if they replicate such a performance on a more regular basis, though, and that is what Neil will be telling his side going into a run of fixtures that sees them face five bottom-half teams - including fellow strugglers Swansea City, Newcastle United and Sunderland - in their six matches after this one.

The statistics don't make great reading for Norwich, though. Despite their defensive improvement last time out, no team has conceded more than them in the Premier League this season, while at the other end of the pitch they have had the fewest touches in the opposition penalty area out of all the teams in the top flight.

Norwich no longer have survival in their own hands after they failed to make the most of Newcastle's weekend off, and another defeat on Tuesday night would leave the Magpies still level on points with two games in hand.

The Canaries have, at least, been far better at home than they have away this season, although in all competitions they are winless in their last four at Carrow Road, conceding 13 goals in the process.

Recent form: LLLLDL


Diego Costa celebrates scoring during the Premier League game between Southampton and Chelsea on February 27, 2016© Getty Images

As rumours continue to circulate regarding the identity of Jose Mourinho's permanent successor at the end of the season, Guus Hiddink is steadily building the champions back to something resembling their recent glory.

Italy manager Antonio Conte is the man currently being heavily linked with the Stamford Bridge post, but while Hiddink has refused to entertain the idea of staying on himself, his recovery job will have many fans hoping for a U-turn.

It was the same scenario when he was last in charge, succeeding Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008-09, when he guided Chelsea to the Champions League semi-finals and FA Cup glory.

Both could be on the cards again this season, with Chelsea still very much in their last-16 European clash with Paris Saint-Germain and through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Everton.

Should he manage significant progress on those two fronts then it would salvage at least something from one of the tamest title challenges in English football history, although the Blues are also quietly edging up the table in the Premier League too.

With Watford, Liverpool and Stoke City all in action on the Wednesday night, victory for Chelsea at Carrow Road would lift them up to eighth in the table - their highest position since the opening day and only five points adrift of Manchester United.

Saturday's come-from-behind victory over Southampton stretched Hiddink's unbeaten streak in the Premier League since taking over to 10 matches and, remarkably, was the first time that Chelsea had won back-to-back league games all season.

It was no mean feat to win at St Mary's either, with Southampton having not even conceded a goal in six games prior to Chelsea's visit. Neither of Chelsea's goals on the day were exactly unstoppable, but the manner of the victory will surely give the increasing confidence of the Blues another boost.

Chelsea's rise from the ashes under Hiddink can be easily correlated to the form of certain players. Diego Costa has hit the goal trail again since Mourinho's exit, while Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic, who were among the most criticised of Chelsea's players during the first half of the campaign, were the heroes at the weekend.

A victory and a return to the top half on Tuesday against a Norwich side who sat above them in the table as recently as the start of January would be another step in the right direction for the Londoners, and will no doubt see the calls for Hiddink to stay on grow even louder.

Recent form: DWDDWW
Recent form (all competitions): DDWLWW

Team News

Alexandre Pato in action for Sao Paolo in May 2015© Getty Images

Alexandre Pato could make his long-awaited debut for Chelsea this weekend having been building his way up to match fitness since his arrival, although any involvement will be off the bench.

Chelsea will be without Pedro after the Spaniard picked up a hamstring injury against Southampton, while John Terry remains sidelined with a similar problem of his own.

Long-term absentees Radamel Falcao and Kurt Zouma are out, while Nemanja Matic could once again be forced to settle for a place on the bench having fallen behind John Obi Mikel in the pecking order.

Norwich could be without Sebastien Bassong and Wes Hoolahan, who both missed the weekend defeat to Leicester and will face late fitness tests to see whether they are ready to return.

Andre Wisdom remains sidelined by a knee injury, though, while loanee striker Patrick Bamford is ineligible to play against his parent club.

Neil played a new formation against Leicester and could stick with it after seeing it work for long spells, which should mean another start for Steven Naismith, who has scored six goals in seven Premier League appearances against Chelsea.

Norwich possible starting lineup:
Ruddy; Pinto, Bennett, Martin, Klose, Brady; Redmond, Tettey, Howson, Naismith; Jerome

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Baba Rahman; Fabregas, Mikel, Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa

Head To Head

Chelsea have dominated this fixture over the past two decades, winning nine and drawing three of their last 12 meetings in all competitions, with Norwich managing just four goals in that time.

You have to go back to December 1994 for the last time Norwich beat Chelsea, with Ashley Ward (2) and Jamie Cureton on the scoresheet in a 3-0 victory at Carrow Road.

The reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge in November saw Costa score the only goal of the game in a 1-0 Chelsea victory at Stamford Bridge.

The Dugout Podcast

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We say: Norwich 0-2 Chelsea

Despite their improvement against Leicester, Norwich can't seem to buy a win at the moment and the visit of an in-form Chelsea side does not give them much hope of ending that run. If they are able to replicate Saturday's performance then they won't make it easy for Chelsea, but the Blues should have enough to make it three league wins on the bounce.

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Who will win Tuesday's Premier League clash between Norwich and Chelsea?

Alexandre Pato in action for Sao Paolo in May 2015
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Alexandre Pato in line for Chelsea debut

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