The Premier League returns this weekend with every side dreaming of having a great season. Norwich are back in the top flight after a season away and are coming up against a side who they will look at for inspiration with Crystal Palace beginning to secure themselves as a Premier League side. The opening weekend is very important for all sides, especially those trying to stay afloat of the bottom three as losing can become a habit. It’s cliched to say that promoted sides need to target their home matches to gain points, but it is true, and Norwich will be wanting to open their season with a win over Alan Pardew’s side.
Norwich have had the quietest summer out of the promoted sides, but the signings of Robbie Brady, Graham Dorrans and Youssuf Mulumbu represent proven Premier League players, who will bring experience to the side. Moreover the decision to loan Andre Wisdom was a smart one after his performances for West Brom last season. He will bring quality to the back four, while his power and pace will be an asset to the side. Also, his versatility means that he can cover two or three positions, an important part of the modern game.
Alex Neil will be keen to show that he can make the step up and the club’s promotion was mainly due to the influence he had on the side. However, this will be a huge step for him, but he still has a lot of Premier League quality in the squad, who can stay up.
Meanwhile, many expect Palace to push on again with some even tipping them for a top eight finish after some very exciting signings. Alan Pardew has used his contacts to bring in Yohan Cabaye, who could transform Palace as the Frenchman has showed in the past that he can win matches in this league on his own. The other signings of Patrick Bamford, Connor Wickham, Bakary Sako and Alex McCarthy are exciting and all could thrive in the environment at Palace. After two seasons of being tipped for a relegation fight, Palace now have a complete squad and they should be finishing in the top half at least. It will be interesting to see how Pardew copes with the pressure that is going to come his way this season.
In the 2013/14 season, Norwich won this fixture 1-0 in Tony Pulis’ first game in charge of Palace. Gary Hooper scored the goal to get Norwich the points. In the match at Selhurst Park later in the season, it ended in a 1-1 draw. Bradley Johnson netted for Norwich to give the visitors the lead, before Jason Puncheon scored the equaliser.
- Norwich won 17 of their 25 matches under Alex Neil after he took the reigns last season.
- Crystal Palace have lost their opening day fixtures in the last two seasons.
Bradley Johnson was a key part of the Norwich side that came back up, using his experience and leadership to guide the Canaries back into the top flight. He has been at the club since 2011 and has been a regular in the side since then. The Norwich captain has Premier League experience from the last time the club were in the top flight, therefore he will know what the club needs to do in order to survive. In their promotion campaign, Johnson was integral to the side, scoring 15 goals and he got 2 assists. He showed that he had more to his game, especially in the attacking half, while his breaking up of the play was also key. A weakness that came to the fore was his discipline and he will need to work on that over the next 12 months. The midfield battle will be very important this weekend and Johnson has the ability to make a match-winning contribution against Palace.
The centre-back has been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park this summer, but he ended the speculation by signing a new deal with the Eagles. After a disappointing spell with Blackburn Rovers, Dann is beginning to rebuild his reputation at Crystal Palace. It wasn’t surprising to see the centre-back linked with a move away as he was excellent last season and he was a big reason for the club’s upturn in form under Alan Pardew. He missed four matches in the Premier League highlighting his importance to Palace. His consistency stood out over the last campaign and Palace will need that again if they are to push for another top half finish. Norwich will still be on a high following their promotion, therefore it is crucial that Palace keep it tight early on. Pardew organises sides well, but having a player like Dann on the pitch makes it a lot easier.
Youssuf Mulumbu is going to be missing for a number of weeks with a metatarsal fracture, which is a blow for Norwich as the former West Brom player will bring bite to their midfield. Marcus Olsson and Kyle Lafferty are both also set to miss the beginning of the season. Robbie Brady and Andre Wisdom are set to make their debuts this weekend.
Yannick Bolasie (hamstring) and Yohan Cabaye (hip) are both doubts for Crystal Palace this weekend. Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell are both set to miss the beginning of the season, so is Julian Speroni. Alex McCarthy is set to begin the season in goal, while Connor Wickham, Patrick Bamford and Bakary Sako could all make their debuts at Carrow Road.
If you think Norwich will win their first match back in the top flight, you can get odds of 7/5 with Bet365. Alternatively, you can back the draw at 23/10 with Ladbrokes and if you fancy Palace to start their season with a win, you can get 2/1 with Bet365.
This is one of the most intriguing fixtures of the weekend as Norwich will still be on a high from their promotion, while many think Palace could push the top 8 this season. It’s impossible to judge any side in the division until a few months into the season, but a good start is very important. Norwich and Palace have a lot of pace in their attacks, which makes both sides suited to the counter-attack. Therefore it will be interesting to see which side dominates the possession this weekend, as neither are suited to doing that. The home advantage could be the defining factor this weekend as the stadium will be bouncing with the return of Premier League football.
Norwich 1-0 Crystal Palace