West Ham United will be looking to make it three Premier League wins in succession when they host a Norwich City side that has only lost once on the road in the entire calendar year thus far.
Widely written off before each of their three away games this season, West Ham have been able to leave most football observers dumbstruck after taking a maximum nine points from trips to Arsenal, Liverpool, and most recently leaders Manchester City. Last weekend’s success at the Etihad Stadium was far and away the most impressive, as they saw off a side in top form and were gleefully rewarded for their confident and adventurous attacking play.
The signs are that things are coming together at home as well after a slow start to their final season at Upton Park, and the quality that now exists within the squad is clear to see. Victor Moses in particular has made a massive impact since coming in on loan from Chelsea and his pace will likely cause the Norwich defence problems; as will the sheer trickery and unpredictability of Dimitri Payet, who in helping the club to third place has shown just why he earned rave reviews from manager and owners alike upon arriving in the summer.
Slaven Bilic has made a fantastic impact at the club he used to represent as a player, but few managers have had such a positive effect on a club as opposite number Alex Neil has had with Norwich. The Scot has led them to a solid start upon their return to the Premier League, competitive in all but one of their six outings, and coming away with a hugely creditable point from their last game away to Liverpool, where they had to hold firm under late pressure.
Few would have predicted that skipper Russell Martin would be their top scorer so far with three goals, but the central defender has been a hugely influential figure in the opposition penalty area. His equaliser on Merseyside was all the more special on a day of great personal delight, but he may just have his hands full here with Payet ahead of him, and the physical presence of Diafra Sakho to also contend with.
Angelo Ogbonna is a major doubt for West Ham, who are still without Enner Valencia. Striker Andy Carroll is again likely to be on the bench.
Norwich are unable to call upon Matt Jarvis, who is ineligible to face his parent club, while Gary Hooper is injured. Alexander Tettey returns after being suspended for the midweek League Cup victory over West Bromwich Albion
Last Meeting: Norwich were on top for most of the game in early 2014, but their struggles in front of goal cost them again as two late strikes from West Ham condemned them to defeat. James Collins headed the opener with six minutes left from Mohamed Diame’s cross, before the Senegalese midfielder turned to scorer with a goal on the break in the final seconds of normal time to seal the Londoners’ fourth straight win.
Played for both – Dean Ashton: The prolific striker joined Norwich from Crewe Alexandra in January 2005 and made a fine start to life at Carrow Road to give them a chance of Premier League survival, a battle which was lost on the final day. He moved on to West Ham in early 2006 and scored in that year’s FA Cup final. After scoring 15 goals in 46 league games for the club, he unfortunately had to retire due to persistent injury problems.