Back in the Premier League after just one season away, Norwich City begin their campaign with a home clash with Crystal Palace, a side looking to kick on after clinching a top half place last term.
Aged only 33, Alex Neil has a remarkable record as a manager, following up his heroics in Scottish football with Hamilton Academical by hauling the Canaries back into the Championship promotion race and then up through the play-offs in May with a comfortable win over Middlesbrough at Wembley. His impact has led to a feeling of real positivity around the Norfolk club for the season ahead.
Strikers Cameron Jerome and Gary Hooper have significant top-level experience, while tenacious midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu and the creative Robbie Brady are among their summer acquisitions. They seem a solid side all over the pitch and will be confident of staying up this time, but in this encounter they must be wary of Palace’s pace on the break.
It is a facet of their play that made the Eagles one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the Premier League in the latter weeks of last season as they soared up the table. In spite of the competitive nature of the division, they are more than capable of finishing even higher this time around. Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon will again be the players to watch.
As will Yohan Cabaye, whose arrival in July represented a major coup following a disappointing spell at Paris St. Germain. He will add even more quality and creativity to what is already an exciting squad that does not hesitate to express itself. All in all, this has the makings of a richly entertaining affair.
Mulumbu will miss out for Norwich due to a broken metatarsal, but new loan signing Andre Wisdom could make his debut in defence. Left-back Martin Olsson is continuing to recover from shoulder surgery.
Alex McCarthy or Wayne Hennessey will start in goal for Palace in place of the injured Julian Speroni. Striker Marouane Chamakh is also sidelined, but there could be first outings for recent arrivals Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham.
Last Meeting: Gary Hooper scored the only goal as Norwich claimed a long-awaited three points and condemned Tony Pulis to defeat in his first match in charge of the away side. The former Celtic man was on hand to score after Johan Elmander had hit the crossbar. Palace came mightily close to levelling in the dying minutes, only for Martin Olsson’s desperate clearance to deny them.
Played for both – Aaron Wilbraham: The experienced striker joined Norwich in the January 2011 but never established himself in the team, scoring just the one Premier League goal at Fulham in March 2012. He joined Palace the following summer and helped them to promotion in his first season, but again found top-flight appearances hard to come by and failed to score.