Crystal Palace and Norwich City will be keen to end the year on a high when they take on each other in what could be a six-pointer for both sides at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace and Norwich City both endured a Boxing Day to forget as they succumbed to disappointing losses to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, respectively.

They now face off against each other and will be keen to give their fans some cheer in what has been a rather dour festive season on and off the field. Both teams have seen their form drop off and will be keen to get their season back on track.

Patrick Vieira’s side are nine points above the relegation spots, but unless they can turn around their results quickly, there is every chance they may get sucked into the battle to beat the drop. Norwich, on the other hand, are rock bottom and require as many points as they can muster.

All this builds anticipation for an intriguing contest between two sides who are keen to address their decline in form. The Canaries, for their part, have looked better organized under Dean Smith, but their fortunes on the field have improved little. With the season nearing the halfway mark, there is still enough time for them to turn things around. Remarkably, the Canaries are still just three points off safety despite having the worst attack and the second-worst defence in the league.

Crystal Palace are going through a rough patch at the moment and are there for the taking. The Eagles have not won their last game of a calendar year as a Premier League side since 1992, while the visitors have not won at Selhurst Park since 1996. Something has to give. In what could prove to be a massive three points come to the end of the season, it remains to be seen who will give their fans a good send-off to what has been a turbulent 2021.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Crystal Palace

Thanks to various reasons, Patrick Vieira has several players unavailable for the game. The French legend will be keen to get his side back to winning ways following a poor run of results. Vieira himself will not be on the touchline after a recent outbreak of Covid-19 at the club.

Christian Benteke, Vicente Guaita, Nathaniel Clyne, Luka Milivojevic, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, all of who missed last Sunday’s game versus Tottenham, remain unavailable. To add to Vieira’s woes, Wilfried Zaha will miss out after getting sent off against Tottenham. With James McArthur a doubt for the game, the Eagles are short-staffed for match winners.

With a limited set of players to choose from, Palace look set to deploy a 4-3-3 formation on the night. With Guaita out, Jack Butland looks set to continue in goal. He will have a back four of Jeffrey Schlupp, Marc Guehi, James Tomkins and Joel Ward ahead of him.

The trio of Chiekhou Kouyate, Will Hughes and Conor Gallagher will be entrusted with winning the battles in the middle of the park. Curiously, the matchup could prove to be a direct duel between two Chelsea loanees – Gallagher and Billy Gilmour. The former has been sensational for Palace this season and leads the club’s goal and assist tallies. It is fair to assume that any move of significance will go through the 21-year-old.

It is, however, in the attack that Palace have the edge over Norwich. Odsonne Edouard, Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta aren’t names who get the pulse racing. However, they outgun the toothless Canaries frontline and could be the difference makers on the night.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Ward, Tomkins, Guehi, Schlupp; Gallagher, Hughes, Kouyate; Ayew, Mateta, Edouard

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Norwich City

The Canaries have their own share of injury problems to contend with. They go into the game without Christoph Zimmermann, Mathias Normann, Grant Hanley, Andrew Omobamidele and Milot Rashica, who are all injured. Goalkeeper Tim Krul is still out after testing positive for Covid, while Lukas Rupp remains doubtful for the game.

Angus Gunn is set to start in goal and will depend on Dimitris Giannoulis, Ben Gibson, Ozan Kabak and Max Aarons in defence. Brandon Williams appears likely to settle for a spot on the bench. Although Smith admitted that Kabak would not be starting both games over the festive period, he could be left with no other choice but to play the Turkish international.

It is not all doom and gloom as the trio of Christos Tzolis, Pierre Lees-Melou, and Joshua Sargent all returned for the game on Boxing Day. Sam Byram, Billy Gilmour and Lees-Melou look likely to start the game in midfield.

The duel between Chelsea loanees Gilmour and Gallagher could make for an interesting watch. The latter has largely outshone the former this season, and Gilmour now has a chance to set the record straight. Nullifying the Palace star would go a long way in cutting off the home side’s ability to create opportunities.

Tzolis looks set to start upfront alongside Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell. The formation appears likely to be a 4-3-3 but could change into a 4-5-1 if overwhelmed.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Gunn; Aarons, Kabak, Gibson, Giannoulis; Lees-Melou, Gilmour, Byram; Cantwell, Pukki, Tzolis

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Key Stats

  • Crystal Palace have won three of the last four meetings between both teams.
  • Crystal Palace have not won their final game of the year on the previous nine occasions. Their last win in the final match of a calendar year as a Premier League side came back in 1992.
  • Norwich City have not won away at Selhurst Park since 1996, a run stretching 16 games.
  • Norwich City have scored just eight goals in the Premier League this season. No other team has fewer strikes in the current campaign.
  • Norwich City have also conceded 39 goals in the league so far, putting them only ahead of Newcastle United in the race for the worst defence.

Player to Watch

Billy Gilmour

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One of the finest young players in the Premier League, the Scottish international is on his day a masterful performer in the middle of the park. Gilmour can nullify opposition and kickstart attacks for his side.

Given the players unavailable for Palace, it is evident that the onus will fall on Gallagher to make the difference on the night. Norwich have their own issues and will look to Gilmour to get the better of his Chelsea teammate. Having watched Gallagher enjoy an excellent campaign, this is the Canaries star’s chance to show that he is the numero uno when it comes to upcoming Chelsea midfielders.

Norwich City need a lynchpin who can lead them to a successful second half of the season. This is Gilmour’s chance to step up and remind those around him of his limitless potential.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 2-1 Norwich City

The absence of Wilfried Zaha puts pressure on Odsonne Edouard to become the main man in the attack on the night. Both teams are currently in need of a win and could do with three points on the night.

Palace have the better players and the better momentum going into the match. More so, despite their struggles of late, the Eagles have done rather well on home territory. Given Norwich’s inability to form any cohesive front, it isn’t easy to bet against Palace securing all three points.

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