It’s just their fifth game of the Premier League season, but it’s already a big game for Aston Villa as they travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich (7:45 a.m. ET; watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).
The Villans surprised in the first round, beating Arsenal on day one. Had a bit of luck gone their way, they may have taken a point against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but Villa still had tongues wagging about their impressive play. Even against first-place Liverpool, Paul Lambert’s side hung in there, never looking like they were the David fighting an insurmountable Goliath.
Then came last week, at home to Newcastle. The Villa were dreary, stagnant, and stale against a revived Newcastle side, who easily trotted out the 2-1 winners. To avoid subjecting fans to a third straight season fearing the drop, Aston Villa are going to have to turn it around this week against Norwich — or the bedsheets just might start coming out. Unfortunately, Lambert faces a bit of an injury crisis at the back, with Jores Okore ruled out for nine months. Fortunately he’s still got seven, yes seven, healthy forwards, so there will be no backing away from an attacking style of play.
Norwich aren’t doing so hot themselves, having earned just a point more than Villa, a result of week one’s 2-2 draw with Everton. Unfortunately for the Canaries, they’ve scored just one goal since, in their win over Southampton. That victory was sandwiched between two losses, a 1-0 away to Hull City and a less surprising 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur last week.
Chris Hughton is looking to rectify his side’s goal deficiency, promising to put more oomph behind the attack. The Norwich manager will be looking to summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel to provide the goals, but the supporting cast are going to need to do much better at creating chances for the forward. If the Canaries manage to gel this week, expect a bit of a thriller, with plenty of chances at both ends.
Norwich City Starting XI: Ruddy; Martin, Bassong (c), Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Fer, Redmond; Elmander; van Wolfswinkel
Aston Villa Starting XI: Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Vlaar (c), Luna; Delph, El Ahmadi, Tonev; Weimann, Agbonlahor, Benteke