It’s finally here, the first game of the season and the expectant Canary nation are primed and ready, first up it’s the visit of a resurgent Crystal Palace.
The Eagles are resurgent under Alan Pardew despite being relegation candidates when he arrived to replace Neil Warnock, last January. He not only steadied the ship but drove them up the league to a stunning 10th placed finish – perhaps the Phoenixes might be a better nickname.
However it came about though, Pardew hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet and he has set about making some useful additions to his squad. The acquisition of Yohan Cabaye is quite a coup for a club record £10m and then Bamford, Wickham, McCarthy and Sako all followed the Frenchman through the door at Selhurst Park – presumably all four signed before they’d actually seen the state of the stadium.
So what should we expect on Saturday?
Well, Mr Pardew reckons that outside the top four, his side have nothing to fear from anyone in the Premier league and despite being a bold statement (typical of the man) he may well have a point. Zaha and Bolasie are also major threats going forwards with James McArthur the anchor in the middle.
One injury doubt for opening day though is veteran No:1, Julian Speroni with Pardew needing to decide between Wayne Hennessey and new recruit, Alex McCarthy as to who will face the Canaries.
Other than that, Campbell, Appiah and Chamakh also seem unlikely to figure through various injuries.
From a home perspective this will be Alex Neil’s first experience of the Premier league and one that he is no doubt relishing. He has united the squad as one behind him and team spirit will be key when up against the Hazards and Agueros of the league.
Neil is likely to play with the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation that we all know with only Olsson, Mulumbu and Lafferty unavailable. The first two would’ve been definite starters in this game, with Brady likely to fill in at left back and Dorrans, Johnson or Howson likely to be alongside Alex Tettey in front of the back four.
I would guess that Johnson will be more likely to be used on the left of the three attacking midfielders with Redmond on the right and Hoolahan behind the lone striker, Jerome or Grabban being the most likely for the lone hit man role.
Norwich v Crystal Palace – The Facts:
Norwich have failed to win an opening day match in the last 12 so will this be “lucky 13”? Palace themselves have failed to win in the last four opening day games so something has to give, you’d suspect.
Norwich and Crystal Palace have met 104 times in the league, each winning on 43 occasions.
The two sides last met in the Premier League on New Year’s Day 2014. The match ended 1-1 with goals from Jason Puncheon and Bradley Johnson.
Palace have only lost two of their last seven visits to Carrow Road, winning three of their last five.
One thing we must be wary of is the home crowd’s desire to attack our opponents at all times. Yes, we want to have a decent go at them, rather than the dull, defensive style of our last Premier League manager and we want to win the game but Palace on the counter are full of pace and running. They will be very dangerous.
Alex Neil of course, won’t give two hoots what the crowd say, he will martial his men and instruct them as he always has done, giving them the orders to beat their opponents. There was moaning at half time in the home play off game against Ipswich but afterwards Neil stated that he knew that Town would tire in the second half because they always do – he played a blinder.
He knows what he’s doing people, so let him get on with it, please.
Home games are where we will make or break this season but I would bet we’ll win more than the paltry two victories we managed in the last Premier league campaign. Despite what Mr Pardew says, this sort of game is winnable at home for us and I don’t doubt Alex will try to do that.
I’m going to plump for a 2-1 City win.
In his own pre-match press conference on Thursday, Pardew had some kind words for the Canaries:
‘It’s nice to have Norwich back in the Premier League.
‘They do things the right way and are a great Club with an exciting manager. Alex Neil hasn’t put a foot wrong since he arrived, so we’re in for a very tough game.’
When Rob Butler mentioned that to him on Friday, Neil replied “It’s nice to be nice” with a faint smile on his face. Only a faint one mind, Alex Neil means business.