Fulham v Norwich: Felix Magath may trust in youth for Premier League relegation battle
This weekend's match at Craven Cottage is crucial to both sides' hopes of survival
Friday 11 April 2014
Fulham manager Felix Magath insists he would happily give the club's impressive young players a chance to shine in the first team, despite their precarious position in the Barclays Premier League.
The Whites sit 18th in the table and are five points behind 17th-placed Norwich, with the Canaries visiting Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Magath's side go into the game on the back of a crucial 2-1 win at Aston Villa last weekend that has brought them back into the chase for Premier League survival.
While the senior team continue to fight against the drop, Fulham's youngsters sealed a spot in the FA Youth Cup final by seeing off Reading over two legs and sit second in the Under-21 Premier League standings.
Magath, Fulham's third manager this season following the sackings of Dutch duo Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen, has already put faith in the likes of teenage forward trio Cauley Woodrow, Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts and will not think twice about bleeding more young talent in the coming weeks.
"I always take care of the youth, of young players," he said.
"For me it's normal to use young players. I will not show them but I'm convinced they realise that I'm not afraid to take young players so I hope they will see it and it helps them to improve.
"I was there [at the semi-final victory]. I crossed my fingers and I was very glad of the performance of the youth team. We have a London final [against Arsenal or Chelsea] so we hope the champions will be Fulham."
Norwich will be managed by Neil Adams for the first time at Craven Cottage after he replaced Chris Hughton as manager on Saturday.
Adams led Norwich to the FA Youth Cup trophy last season and has already suggested he too would not hesitate to put the club's top-flight safety in the hands of his inexperienced youngsters.
But if Magath can mastermind back-to-back league wins for Fulham for only the second time this season they will close to within two points of Norwich, with defender Jonny Heitinga convinced the west Londoners can maintain their place in the Premier League.
"You have to believe we can still do it, I believe we can," he said.
"The only thing that matters right now is the club's survival - we just need to find the way. This is the first time I've been involved in a relegation battle, but you have to deal with the same pressures as when you are challenging for trophies.
"Of course, the trophy for us will be staying up in the Premier League. It's a real challenge but it's up to us to play as well as we can between now and the end of the season."
Midfield duo Scott Parker and Giorgos Karagounis are both in contention to return to Magath's side on Saturday, with the former having scored a late winner in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road on Boxing Day.
Dan Burn and Darren Bent will also come back into the Fulham squad as they look to heap more misery on Norwich and give their own survival bid even more impetus.
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