Crystal Palace welcome Norwich City to Selhurst Park for both teams’ first fixture of the New Year. The Eagles have had a mixed run of form in their last few games. A home loss to Newcastle was followed by an away win at Aston Villa. They were then unlucky to come away with nothing at Manchester City, and will feel confident going into this fixture. A win for Palace will see them go above Norwich on goal difference. Norwich started the period with a 0-0 draw at home Sunderland, followed by consecutive defeats to Fulham and Manchester United. They would have hoped that the Christmas period would have been more fruitful, but the game against Palace offers them the chance to potentially move up the table.
Crystal Palace are still without Glenn Murray (Knee), Paddy McCarthy (Groin), Jack Hunt (Ankle), Adlene Guedioura (Ribs) and Jerome Thomas (Calf). Cameron Jerome is out with a knee injury sustained in a clash with Joe Hart at the weekend. Chamakh will be expected to regain his place in the starting line-up. Kagisho Dikgacoi (Hamstring) and Stuart O’Keefe (Thigh) are both doubtful. Norwich are without Elliot Bennett (Knee), Alex Tettey (Ankle) and Anthony Pilkington (Hamstring). Midfielder Jonny Howson should return after time out with a back injury.
Other than the previous fixture this season, the game had not been played in the Premier League for over eight years. When the two teams met in November, Norwich won 1-0 in Tony Pulis’ first game in charge of the Eagles. The Eagles have only lost two in their last ten meetings against the Canaries in league football. In their seven Premier League meetings, Palace are yet to win a game. Of these seven, Norwich have won four and the other three have been draws. The last time the teams met in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, the game ended in a 3-3 draw. The single survivor from that fixture is Palace’s Julian Speroni, who was an unused substitute on the day. The teams met on January 1st at Selhurst Park six years ago where it ended 1-1.
Since the arrival of Tony Pulis, Barry Bannan has been a fixture in the Crystal Palace team. The former Aston Villa man has scored one goal and provided one assist this season for Palace, but his delivery at set pieces has become more important under Tony Pulis. Bannan has created twelve chances from set plays, and has created the joint most clear-cut chances for the Eagles with three. He has put in the most crosses for Palace with 76 and has the highest number of penalty-area entries from passes with 44. He has also hit the woodwork twice, showing that he is not far away from getting more goals for the Eagles. There is no doubt that Bannan along with players like Marouane Chamakh, have been key to the changing of Palace’s fortunes, and his contribution will be important for the Eagles in retaining their Premier League status.
After a slow start at Norwich hampered by injury, Gary Hooper has begun to show some quality for the Canaries in the last month. Hooper now has five goals in his first Premier League season, which have all come since November. Hooper has managed just under a goal every other game, or once every 193 minutes. He also has a very impressive shooting accuracy of 67%. If Norwich are to guarantee safety, it is important that Hooper scores more goals away from home, as four of his tally of five have come at Carrow Road. Hooper is very much a player who likes to be at the end of a move, categorised by the fact he has no assists this season. Strikers of his ilk are a rarity in the modern game, but his goal scoring exploits have given Norwich fans hope of safety this season. His second half of the season will be important for the clubs final league position.
It could be argued that this game is a six pointer. If Palace win, they will go above Norwich. A Norwich loss will drag them closer to the relegation places, but a Norwich win will give them some extra breathing space going into the New Year. Whilst Norwich were the victors in November, a lot has changed since then. Palace are the form team out of the two going into the game, and their home crowd could have a strong influence on the outcome. A 1-0 win for Crystal Palace is my prediction.