NCFC fixtures: Five things we learned about the Canaries' Premier League schedule
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Following the release of the Premier League fixtures, David Freezer takes a closer look at how Norwich City's season is shaping up.
The Canaries are facing almost certainly the most difficult start to any campaign in their history, facing three of last season's top five.
A repeat of 2019 pits promoted City against Liverpool, although at home this time, at least. Two years ago Anfield was rocking as the Reds celebrated Champions League glory.
Despite some encouraging style points, Norwich were beaten 4-1 after failing to take chances, featuring a cruel Grant Hanley own goal.
This time Jurgen Klopp's team may not be quite as fearsome, having lost the Premier League title to Manchester City during an injury-hit and unusual season, but they still managed to rally for third place.
Talking of Manchester City, an away game against the expensively-assembled champions awaits in the second game.
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The Canaries famously defied the odds to beat Pep Guardiola's superstars 3-2 on home turf in 2019 but salt was rubbed into the relegation wounds by a 5-0 thrashing on the final day.
Leicester and James Maddison are due for the second Carrow Road game, having just slipped away from Champions League qualification before winning the FA Cup.
City actually took four points off the Foxes during 2019-20 and regularly looked more comfortable against the big boys, due to Daniel Farke's attacking and possession-based style.
Then it's Arsenal, looking to rebound from a disappointing eighth-placed finish and with no European distractions as Mikel Arteta revamps his squad.
One possible advantage of playing four of the big boys early on is that the European Championship and Copa America are being played this summer, potentially leaving their top stars with minimal time to rest before kick-off.
A DEFINING PERIOD?
Any points from that opening four will come as a very welcome bonus, as CIty could also start the season with something of a new-look team, with star player Emi Buendia sold, Oliver Skipp back at Spurs and plenty of transfer business likely between now and August 30.
Through until the start of December is where points really must be gained though, against teams that are more likely to be direct rivals.
Home clashes with Watford, Brighton, Southampton and Wolves as well as trips to Burnley, Brentford and Newcastle are likely to dictate the narrative from thereon.
The rest of December looks challenging, although as long as fans are allowed to travel again by then, Tottenham and West Ham offer good pre-Christmas away days in London.
The visit of last season’s runners-up and beaten Europa League finalists Manchester United often seems to bring a good contest, with the Red Devils beaten at Carrow Road in two of the Canaries’ last six top-flight campaigns.
There’s also a potentially painful reunion with Emi Buendia as an upwardly-mobile Villa visit and Arsenal head for Norfolk on Boxing Day, with the usual festive fixture with Crystal Palace scheduled to follow at Selhurst Park two days later.
HUGE HOME GAMES
A quieter start to the year sees a trip to Leicester on New Year’s Day followed by the FA Cup third round and a home clash with Everton during the next two weekends.
An important trip to fellow promoted side Watford on Saturday, January 22 is followed by the return of the two-week winter break, potentially coming to an end with another FA Cup tie on February 5, followed a few days later by the midweek arrival of Palace.
That begins a run of home games against teams that could be direct rivals, with Brentford, Burnley and Newcastle to follow, interrupted by the visits of Manchester City and Chelsea.
Combined with trips to Southampton and Brighton, the return from the winter break could bring some crunch clashes.
Taking points from those games takes on added importance when looking at the final six fixtures.
A trip to Old Trafford precedes the visit of Newcastle, which is followed by a trip to Villa and a home clash with West Ham.
The Hammers, a bit like the final away game that follows, Wolves, are difficult to get a read on. David Moyes’ team earned a surprise sixth place to qualify for the Europa League. Matching that success with the added demand of those European games would be hugely impressive.
Equally, Wolves ended up slipping to a disappointing 13th without injured star striker Raul Jimenez and have changed manager. Predicting the season ahead for either club is tough but it would be a shock to see either in the relegation mix.
It all concludes with Tottenham heading to Carrow Road in May, when City will hope their fate is already sealed – for positive reasons.
During 2019-20 the Canaries’ relegation was confirmed mathematically with three games remaining, after a 4-0 home slump against West Ham sealed the inevitable.
Spurs are another club with a new manager but even if star striker Harry Kane is sold for big money, Jose Mourinho’s successor will be expected to improve on seventh place and chase the Champions League.
All fixtures are subject to change for broadcast schedules, so we can only form educated judgements at this stage, particularly with the uncertainty around when full houses will return.
Yet City fans have been reminded of the scale of the challenge with the release of the fixtures, allowing anticipation to increase as Farke’s team aim to build on Championship success and take some Premier League scalps along the way.