Luciano Becchio

Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Norwich City

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For newly promoted Premier League clubs, the name of the game is, simply, survival. For Norwich City, the 2015-16 Premier League season will be just that.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

Back in Premier League after a year in the Championship, the Canaries from Carrow Road showed last season they belong in England’s top flight. A scintillating finish to the regular season and rampant run through the playoffs proved just that, earning the East Anglian club their deserved place back among England’s elite.

The last time the Canaries were in the Premier League, the managerial duo of Chris Houghton and Neil Adams led the club to an 18th place finish.

Best possible XI:

— Ruddy —

— Whittaker — Martin — Bassong — Olsson —

— Redmond — Howson — Mulumbu — Johnson —

— Hoolahan —

— Jerome —

Transfers In: Robbie Brady ($11 million, Hull City), Graham Dorrans ($4.5 million, West Bromwich Albion), Youssouf Mulumbu (Free, West Bromwich Albion), Andre Wisdom (Loan, Liverpool)

Transfers Out: Luciano Becchio (Free), Javier Garrido (Free), Carlos Cuellar (Free), Mark Bunn (Free), Sam Kelly (Free)

Last season: Finished third in the Championship regular season, earned promotion to the Premier League through the promotion playoffs — After starting the 2014-15 season strong (top of the league on October 4), the Canaries faltered over their next 15 games and looked destined to miss out on the playoffs altogether, then they changed managers in January and went on to win 13 of their final 18 games, just missing out on automatic promotion by three points. Cameron Jerome, who was signed for just over $2 million before the start of the season, bagged 20 league goals to led the way, while Bradley Johnson (15), Gary Hooper (12) and Lewis Grabban (12) all reached double digits, as well.

source: Getty Images
Nathan Redmond, Norwich City FC

Star player: Nathan Redmond — The 21-year-old contributed six goals and 13 assists in league play last season, which are numbers he’ll have to somehow replicate in the Premier League this season to continue to English national team-bound career trajectory. While the likes of Johnson, Howson, Jerome, Hooper and Wes Hoolahan (more than 250 appearances for the club) are all undoubtedly important to the Canaries’ hopes of staying up this season, Redmond is the one transcendent type of game-changing player within the squad.

Coach’s corner: Alex Neil took took over at Carrow Road on Jan. 9, days after Neil Adams was fired. Neil, who is just 34, led the Canaries to wins in 15 of their final 22 league games. Following the conclusion of his playing career at age 31, Neil managed his final playing club, Hamilton Academical, for two seasons and won the club promotion to Scotland’s top flight in his first full season in charge.

source: Getty ImagesPST predicts: Considering the Canaries went down for just a season, the current roster is still largely a Premier League-quality squad from two seasons ago — only Leroy Fer, Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington were players of consequence to leave after the 2013-14 season. Neil still needs to do a bit more business to further strengthen the squad before the Sept. 1 transfer deadline, but it’s been a summer of smart signings thus far. The one thing lacking from the Norwich squad as it currently stands: a proven Premier League goalscorer — Jerome and Hooper have scored just 36 PL goals combined.

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Amalfitano opener proves enough for West Brom this time (video)

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West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City are now even on points, both five points above the relegation zone. But even discounting the Baggies’ game in hand, after two rather weak performances from the Canaries, it’s Norwich that should be sweating the possibility of time in the Championship.

The hosts had the majority of the possession and the better of the chances in the first half, yet somehow, West Brom went into the break with the lead.

Norwich very nearly opened the scoring after just fifteen seconds. A sloppy backpass allowed Gary Hooper in on goal, but the Baggies defense were able to clear.

Thirteen minutes in, Johan Elmander wasted a golden chance for the Canaries, moments after Hooper had forced a save from Ben Foster. A half-cleared ball fell perfectly to the Swede, but rather than set up his teammate, Elmander elected to take a shot from twenty yards out, skewing it into the stands instead.

That miss was made even worse minutes later, when West Brom took the lead. An unfortunate slip from Martin Olsson allowed Morgan Amalfitano to slip past him, placing his shot perfectly into the far corner of the net. That’s two for two for the Frenchman, who just might be single-handedly keeping the Baggies in the Premier League.

Norwich got off to a decent start in the second half, with Elmander looking to redeem himself, although he was unable to connect with a good ball from Robert Snodgrass. Shortly thereafter, Snodgrass himself forced Ben Foster to tip his shot into the bar, just minutes after Hooper hit the woodwork.

That was about all the Canaries were able to muster, however, as their attack rather petered out in the final fifteen minutes. Chris Hughton introduced Nathan Redmond and Luciano Becchio, but kept Ricky van Wolfswinkel on the bench. Becchio managed a decent attempt minutes from the end, but his shot went just wide.

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson (Gutierrez 81); Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan (Redmond 64); Elmander (Becchio 70), Hooper

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Amalfitano, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans (Gera 77, O’Neil 83), Sessegnon, Vydra (Berahino 71)

Goals: Amalfitano 16′

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. Newcastle United (Lineups and Discussion)

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Still battling for a spot in Europe, Newcastle United will sport a new look today against visiting Norwich City. At 2:45 ET, the Magpies will play their first match since agreeing to sell Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain (with the game available to stream on NBC Live Extra).

It’s a blow for Newcastle, if an inevitable one. Cabaye nearly moved this summer, and with teams willing to approach $30 million for the France international, it was only a matter of time until the midfielder moved. With PSG having hit the $33 million mark to bring the former Lille dynamo back to France, Alan Pardew will have to find another way to augment the scoring of Loic Remy up top.

The Magpies enter the day’s match one point back of Manchester United for seventh place, a spot that could prove England’s last entry into UEFA Europa League. Should they fail to adapt to the loss of their best player, Newcastle could settle into mid-table insignificance. The team’s too far from the drop to worry about relegation.

The same can’t be said for Norwich City, though the Canaries have crafted a six-point gap between themselves and 18th. Chris Hughton’s side is coming off a much-needed 1-0 win at Hull City, their first league win since Dec. 7. Make it two in a row, and Norwich could finish the day in the table’s top half.

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To do that, the Canaries will need to find goals, with their 18 on the season ranking 18th in the Premier League. Today, Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel get the call up top. The pair have combined for five goals in 30 appearances this season.

LINEUPS

Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy, Sammy Ameobi

Subs: Rob Elliot, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Paul Dummett, Dan Gosling, Shola Ameobi, Adam Amstrong

Norwich City: John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, Sebastien Bassong, MartinOlsson, Robert Snodgrass, Leroy Fer, Bradley Johnson, Anthony Pilkington, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper

Subs: Mark Bunn, Steven Whittaker, Johan Elmander, Javier Garrido, Luciano Becchio, Nathan Redmond, Alex Tettey

Manchester City 7-0 Norwich City: Seven different scorers for City dismiss Canaries

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The easiest way Manchester City could have taken the pressure off debutant goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon would have been to score a lot of goals. That’s exactly what the home side did, defeating Norwich City, 7-0, on Saturday.

The Romanian goalkeeper had little to do all game. Manager Manuel Pellegrini handed him his first Premier League start in place of Joe Hart, whose troubles this season have been well documented.

His teammates at the other end helped him by scoring early and often.

In the 16th minute, Canaries midfielder Bradley Johnson got the last touch on the opening goal. Gaël Clichy overlapped on the left flank and sent in a cross for David Silva. His initial shot was blocked, as was Sergio Agüero’s follow-up effort. However, that block ricocheted off Johnson and looped into the goal.

Just four minutes later, Silva would find the target. Samir Nasri found Agüero over the top on a counter-attack, and he laid the ball off for Silva’s late run into the penalty area. He made no mistake this time, smacking the ball past John Ruddy in the Norwich goal.

Nasri got another assist, helped by a defender, five minutes later. His corner kick found Matija Nastasić at the near post, and he headed into a defender, the deflection deceiving Ruddy on its way into the goal.

The fourth came from center forward Alvaro Negredo. Silva and Yaya Touré exchanged short passes on top of Norwich’s penalty area before slotting the ball through to Agüero. The Argentine was in an offside position when the ball was played, but the flag stayed down.

Shortly after, Pantilimon made the only tough save he needed to preserve his clean sheet. Gary Hooper took his chances from long distance, and the lanky Romanian needed nearly all of his 6-foot, 8-inch height to touch it around the post.

Yaya Touré added a fifth in the second half, curling a world-class free kick directly into the top corner from about 23 yards out on the hour mark. Agüero added a goal of his own after his two previous assists, slamming home a volley from around the penalty spot after a soft clearance by Sébastien Bassong in the 71st minute.

Substitute forward Edin Džeko capped it off in the 86th minute with a nice turn and strike inside the penalty area. The cheers from the City crowd felt almost ironic by that point, as its team won through seven different goalscorers. Pantilimon never looked uncomfortable in his Premier League debut, as his team outshot Norwich, 26-7.

Lineups

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Costel Pantilimon — Gaël Clichy, Matija Nastasić, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta — Yaya Touré, Fernandinho — David Silva (Jesus Navas, 73), Sergio Agüero, Samir Nasri (James Milner, 70) — Álvaro Negredo (Edin Džeko, 46)

Unused substitutes: Joe Hart — Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Aleksandar Kolarov

Norwich City (4-4-2): John Ruddy — Sébastien Bassong, Steven Whittaker (Johan Elmander, 46), Michael Turner, Russell Martin — Martin Olsson, Bradley Johnson, Leroy Fer, Anthony Pilkington — Jonathan Howson, Gary Hooper (Josh Murphy, 46)

Unused substitutes: Mark Bunn — Wes Hoolahan, Javier Garrido, Luciano Becchio, Ryan Bennett

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Norwich City (lineups and discuss)

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The biggest question before Manchester City hosts Norwich has been settled: Joe Hart will be on the bench, while Romanian Costel Pantilimon will get the start. That signals that manager Manuel Pellegrini’s patience may have finally run out for his up-and-down English goalkeeper.

(MORE: Joe Hart dropped for Manchester City vs. Norwich)

In the last two seasons between City and Norwich, 25 goals have been scored, so the new man is sure to see some action between the posts.

For Norwich, Nathan Redmond (thigh) and striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel (ankle) were in doubt before the match, and they have indeed been left off the match-day squad completely for the Canaries.

City may have lost two of its last four, but Norwich has only won once in its previous six matches. Neither side will want to drop points today, with the host side trying to remain within striking distance at the top of the table, and the visitors trying to scrap their way out of the relegation zone.

You can watch the game live on NBC Sports Live Extra, on your television and online, with coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET.

STARTING XIs

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Costel Pantilimon — Gaêl Clichy, Matija Nastasić, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta — Yaya Touré, Fernandinho — David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Samir Nasri — Alvaro Negredo

Bench: Joe Hart — Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Aleksandar Kolarov, Jesus Navas, James Milner, Edin Džeko

Norwich City (4-4-2): John Ruddy — Sébastien Bassong, Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner, Russell Martin — Martin Olsson, Bradley Johnson, Leroy Fer, Anthony Pilkington — Jonathan Howson, Gary Hooper

Bench: Mark Bunn — Wes Hoolahan, Johan Elmander, Javier Garrido, Luciano Becchio, Ryan Bennett, Josh Murphy