Norwich City will be hoping to move further clear of the Premier League’s bottom three by defeating a Crystal Palace side that still needs points themselves to be totally assured of survival.
In theory, only one more win will allow Palace to rest easily, but the wait to get it just goes on and on. They had a chance to do so in their last match when they took on London rivals West Ham United, falling behind after taking the early lead, but not making the most of their late pressure after drawing level against their 10-man opponents. So the anxiety still exists at Selhurst Park and their home form does little to inspire confidence, with 10 defeats having already been suffered there.
This will be a tense afternoon where league points and not their upcoming FA Cup semi-final will be at the centre of the Eagles’ attention, but in Yohan Cabaye they have a player with the ability to unlock any defence, while after scoring the equaliser at West Ham Dwight Gayle will be filled with renewed confidence. The Norwich defence has been far from watertight all season, and Gayle is one of the best in the top-flight at being in the right place at the right time when an opportunity arises.
There is no doubt that Norwich now have the upper hand in the battle to stay up after winning a vital six-pointer with Newcastle United last weekend thanks to a dramatic last minute winner from Martin Olsson. The Sweden international came up with the perfect finish when it mattered most, sending the club’s supporters into raptures, and positive results here and in the showdown with Sunderland will all but ensure that they avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Steven Naismith was a key player against Newcastle as his energy put the Canaries on the front foot in the first half, a level of superiority that was rewarded with the opening goal on the stroke of half-time. After the break it was much more difficult to match their opponents, who launched a spirited comeback, but the confidence and belief gained from snatching that winner may just prove priceless, and give them a psychological edge over the hosts coming into this one.
Cabaye is fit again for Palace, who are also boosted by the return of striker Connor Wickham. Doubts still remain over fellow striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Alexander Tettey is a long-term absentee for Norwich, who hope to have Russell Martin available after he missed the game with Newcastle.
Last Meeting: Two goals late in the first half ensured that the sides could not be separated when they met on New Year’s Day 2014, with the testing conditions certainly playing their part in proceedings. A curling shot from Bradley Johnson saw Norwich – who had Leroy Fer sent off for a second booking eight minutes from time – ahead, but a penalty from Jason Puncheon saw Palace draw level.
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