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Southampton-Norwich City Preview
The Premier League is back in action, but there might not be enough time for Norwich City to keep their status in the top-flight.
The Canaries return from the coronavirus lockdown in need of a massive surge, starting Friday night at Carrow Road versus Southampton, who hope to play better than they did right before the games were halted.
Amidst the unique circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, the Premier League has made its way back to the pitch. For fans, albeit none in the stands, that's good news. For last-place Norwich (5-6-18), it's a final shot at avoiding relegation.
Of course, that's a rather tall order. The Canaries entered the mid-March lockdown at the bottom of the table, and seven points from safety.
"It'll be interesting," defender and captain Grant Hanley, who could miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury, told Norwich's official website. "The game is going to be totally different having not played for a while. I think we're just concentrating on ourselves, and every game for us now is like a final.
"We need to make sure we're ready."
Norwich, who recently had an unnamed player reportedly test positive, then negative, for COVID-19, have one victory over their last six league contests and three defeats in the last four. That triumph, though, came at home versus a talented Leicester City side on Feb. 28. That was also the only match in the last five that the Canaries managed a goal - courtesy of Jamal Lewis in the 70th minute.
Teemu Pukki (11 goals) had the lone score in Norwich's 2-1 loss at Southampton on Dec. 4. However, he has not scored within the league since Jan. 22.
The Saints (10-4-15), who flirted with the relegation zone at one point this season, seem to be safe whilst coming out of the lockdown in 14th place. However, they are 2-0-5 following a 4-1-0 league stretch. Southampton look to avoid a third consecutive defeat after falling 1-0 to Newcastle United on March 7.
Despite the situation the Saints left themselves with prior to the lockdown, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said his side is obviously eager to return to the pitch and solidify a spot in the top-flight for 2020-21.
"The players are really enthusiastic and very happy to be back on the pitch," the gaffer told Southampton's official website. "We have to be fit ... This is the most important thing."
Southampton did make some news leading up to the Premier League restart. According to The Guardian, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has been stripped of his captain's label for saying he wanted to leave Southampton to play elsewhere. James Ward-Prowse is slated to sport the captain's arm band for the remainder of the season.
Teammate Danny Ings, meanwhile, looks to continue his revival when the action resumes. Ings has recorded 18 goals over all competitions - 15 in the Premier League - this season for Southampton. That included one against Norwich City in the reverse fixture.
Ings, however, has managed just one goal over his last seven Premier League contests.
Updated June 17, 2020