Norwich V Cardiff at Carrow Road - Match Preview

Hughton sees reason for optimism

Manager Chris Hughton maintains Norwich are better off than where they were last season despite losing five of their opening eight Barclays Premier League games as the Canaries look to drag themselves out of the bottom three with victory over Cardiff at Carrow Road.

Norwich were beaten 4-1 at Arsenal last time out, but the final scoreline does not tell the whole story of the match, during which Hughton's side were only overrun by the league leaders after he made a positive change in formation when they had fought back to 2-1 with 20 minutes left through Jonny Howson.

Before the international break, a late two-goal burst from Chelsea saw the Canaries lose 3-1 at home in a game where Blues manager Jose Mourinho admitted he could "smell danger" as Norwich pressed on for a winner having drawn level in the second half.

Hughton now hopes his side, which could see club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel return from a foot injury, can translate those positive spells into points on the board.

"One of the plusses is that we are in good form at the moment. We have been beaten in the last two games by top teams who will both be pushing for the league title, but we have played well in spells," said Hughton, who took his side on a fine 10-match unbeaten league run midway through the campaign to eventually finish 11th after another dip in form.

"We felt we should have got something more from particularly the Chelsea match, so if you keep that belief and keep playing in that vein results will turn.

"If I look at our position this time last season, we are a point better off. We then went on a good run that carried us up the table and that is the game.

"When you are playing with confidence you have to try and get results.

"You see Fulham winning a couple of days ago and it lifts them a few places up the table."

Cardiff are managed by former Norwich defender Malky Mackay, who has overseen wins against Manchester City and Fulham, but his side sit just one place and a point above the Canaries.

Hughton added at a press conference: "We have got a really good group. We haven't felt the need to change anything in respect of what we are doing in training.

"They have an excellent work ethic and they are focused on turning things around. We are confident about what we do and we will go into Saturday's game looking to win."

Sweden forward Johan Elmander is expected to return to the Canaries squad after suffering a hamstring injury while on international duty.

Craig Bellamy will return for Cardiff to face his former club.

The Wales striker was rested for last weekend's defeat at Chelsea after playing 90 minutes against Macedonia and Belgium for his country.

Cardiff boss Mackay has suggested Jose Mourinho's assertion that his side are time-wasters is hypocritical.

The Chelsea manager lambasted the Bluebirds for what he saw as negative tactics during last weekend's 4-1 win over the Welsh club.

Mourinho was sent to the stands by the officials after venting his fury, and subsequently received an B#8,000 fine from the Football Association for "improper conduct".

Mackay, who is preparing his side for Saturday's meeting with Norwich at Carrow Road, insists he has not been concerned by Mourinho's comments about Cardiff.

But the Scot was also quick to point out the Portuguese has previously been accused of time-wasting himself, including during the 2003 UEFA Cup final between Porto and Celtic.

"It doesn't really bother me in the slightest," said Mackay. "I am pretty sure it was borne out of the frustration at being sent off.

"I think when you look at four minutes stoppage time being held up, nowadays that is a pretty normal standard amount of time in the second half.

"You speak to the fourth officials and they tell you that it's 30 seconds for a sub, 30 seconds for a goal.

"There were three goals in the second half, and five subs.

"Everyone is the same in terms of that. When you are frustrated it is something else you might blame.

"I remember watching Porto play Celtic in the UEFA Cup final a long time ago, that allegation was labelled at him by Martin O'Neill at the end of the game. It is just something that is borne out of frustration at being sent off."

Source: PA

Source: PA