Chris Hughton braced for 'formidable' Chelsea challenge

 

Norwich manager Chris Hughton is braced for a “formidable” Boxing Day challenge from a Chelsea side he believes could still be in the hunt for the Barclays Premier League title.

The Canaries were beaten 4-1 at Stamford Bridge earlier this season and they face Chelsea just three days after the Blues stunned Aston Villa 8-0.

The Chelsea supporters may not be entirely convinced by manager Rafael Benitez, but Hughton agrees with the Spaniard that their title bid is not over yet.

Chelsea are third in the league, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United and seven behind Manchester City with a game in hand.

"They have great attacking options. We experienced that at their place a couple of months ago," Hughton told reporters.

"Victor Moses is starting to show his real quality now. Fernando Torres is hitting very good form.

"The fact they kept a clean sheet against Aston Villa as well shows the quality and depth they have throughout the squad.

"David Luiz playing in midfield is a role everybody felt was a role he could do and he showed some real quality.

"They are fairly formidable. They are placed very well in the league with a game in hand. They are still in the Capital One Cup with a great chance to progress (to the final).

"At the moment Chelsea are on a high and he [Benitez] will be judged on that.

"He will perhaps look at the two teams above them at the moment and think 'will they go through the season without dropping points?'

"That is very difficult. Swansea showed against Manchester United that everybody is fighting. If they (Chelsea) put a good run together then everything is possible."

Norwich will be determined to dent those title prospects by returning to winning ways after their proud 10-match unbeaten Premier League run was ended by West Brom.

The Canaries are 10th in the league, on the same number of points as Liverpool and Stoke.

"For a club like ourselves to go unbeaten in this division (for 10 games) was a fantastic run," said Hughton, who is preparing Norwich to face Chelsea and Manchester City in the space of three days.

"That has gone now and we have two very tough home games to look forward to.

"If someone had asked if would we be happy with the league position and the points we have got at this stage of the season, we would have said 'yes'.

"But it is about trying to continue the good things we have been doing. A good thing for us is we have been in every game. We certainly deserved a draw from the game at West Brom.

"These are the games you have to look forward to. We will make sure we are well prepared."

Norwich have been boosted by the return to fitness of striker Grant Holt, who missed the defeat to West Brom with a hamstring injury but is set to start against Chelsea.

Norwich will be without defender Steven Whittaker, who has suffered a recurrence of a hip injury, with Russell Martin in line to start.

Ryan Bennett is also back in training and Hughton is positive about his chances of featuring against either Chelsea or Manchester City on December 29.

PA

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