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Bournemouth-Norwich City Preview
Eddie Howe's tenure at Bournemouth may be decided over his club's next stretch of schedule as the Cherries face a six-point relegation belter at Carrow Road on Saturday against Norwich City in a clash of the bottom two clubs in the Premier League.
Bournemouth (5-5-12), once lauded as a model franchise that successfully managed their ambitions after nearly being put into administration in the late 2000s while in League Two, are in clear danger of being relegated for the first time since winning promotion to the top flight in 2015. The Cherries have just two wins in their last 12 matches (2-1-9) in all competitions and four points from their last 11 league matches in that span.
The once sweeping and forward style of play Howe espoused to plaudits has lost its verve in recent months, dropping Bournemouth to 19th in the table on 20 points, three from safety and six clear of last-place Norwich City. This will be their second straight six-point betler, having been on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline at home to Watford last Sunday.
Bournemouth's errors in the first half that put them two to the bad were largely self-inflicted, the kind of mistakes Howe has been trying to get his side to avoid. While injuries have forced a reshuffling at the back, there also has been little help from an offence now 325 minutes without a goal in league play since Dan Gosling scored against Arsenal on Boxing Day.
"It's an absolute huge game," centre back Steve Cook told the Daily Echo. "Whoever comes out on top, especially if it's us, gives us a great chance to kick on. Especially with the fixtures. But nothing is a given.
"Going to Carrow Road is an extremely difficult challenge for us, especially the way we're playing. They don't come bigger in a relegation battle, bottom v second bottom is vital. I'm sure come five o'clock at Carrow Road, we'll see the players that really want to give it for the club."
This match kicks off a favourable - or make-or-break -- patch of schedule for the Cherries, whose lone match against a top-half club in their next five league encounters is against promoted Sheffield United. Bournemouth have taken just four points from their last eight road matches (1-1-6) in league play after winning two of the first three outside Dean Court.
Mark Travers is expected to remain between the sticks for the Cherries as Aaron Ramsdale continues to deal with a hamstring injury.
Norwich City (3-5-14) are practically in a must-win mode for this match to have any chance of escaping the drop since a loss and an unfavourable set of results would have the Canaries nine adrift of Bournemouth for second-bottom. Daniel Farke's club are winless in their last nine league matches (0-4-5) and were swept aside with little resistance by Manchester United last Saturda, losing 4-0 at Old Trafford as the match got away from them with two goals two minutes apart shortly after the restart.
To shake things up, the Canaries have made a pair of moves in the transfer window, signing Slovakia international and midfielder Ondrej Duda on loan from Hertha Berlin and Lukas Rupp from Hoffenheim 1899 on a contract through 2022. Rupp is excited to reunite with former club teammates Marko Vrancic and Marco Stiepermann and make a contribution to help Norwich avoid a return to the Championship.
"It's a childhood dream. I was in the Bundesliga for ten years now and it's a new chapter for me. I wanted to be part of the team here and help the team stay in the Premier League," Rupp told the team's official website. "I know Mario Vrancic, I played with him at Paderborn, and from the national team I know Marco Stiepermann.
"It's the first time that I've been out of Germany to play football. But I know this stadium [Carrow Road] already because with Monchengladbach, I had a friendly game against Norwich about seven years ago. I'm looking forward to training with the guys. Saturday [against AFC Bournemouth] is an important game and I can't wait to get started."
The teams played out a scoreless draw at Dean Court in October, with Norwich City recording their first clean sheet of the term for the point. The Canaries won their only top-flight contest at home versus Bournemouth in the 2015-16 season, but the Cherries are unbeaten in the last three overall meetings between the sides (2-1-0).
Updated January 16, 2020