New-look Norwich attack will have to break down Wolves wall
Wolverhampton Wanderers against Norwich City was a Premier League fixture as recently as March 2012 and, despite the former’s promotion back into the Championship, the West Midlands outfit have no win in five against this East Anglian opposition.
That recent history, taken on its own, makes the relegated Canaries tempting at 21/10 for an opening day win at Molineux with Coral. Piling money on this would be ignoring plenty of contrary facts, however.
No team scored fewer goals (28) in the Premier League than Norwich last term and manager Neil Adams is yet to win a game in charge of them. Wolves, meanwhile, netted most often (89) and kept the highest number of clean sheets (25) of any Football League side in 2013/14.
When you consider all that, then odds of 7/5 on a home victory for hosts Wanderers look a better bet; it’s 23/10 this match is drawn. Adams has shipped out Dutch forward flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel out from Carrow Road to St-Etienne, while Gary Hooper is doubtful with a calf problem.
This means Lewis Grabban (13/8 for a debut goal) and Kyle Lafferty (7/4), recruited from Bournemouth and Palermo respectively, are set for Canaries bows in attack. New Norwich signing Gary O’Neil serves a ban carried over from his dismissal in last term’s Championship play-off final in QPR colours, and fellow midfielder Jonny Howson has a knee injury, however.
Adams will set his Canaries side up in a 4-4-2 at Molineux, if pre-season games are anything to go by, and is short at 3/1 to gain promotion back to the top-flight. Wolves counterpart Kenny Jackett, meanwhile, is likely to keep faith with the progressive 4-2-3-1 he used when claiming the League One title last term.
Wanderers have a number of injuries in attack, though, and that means left-sided player Tommy Rowe will have to wait for his debut. Bakary Sako and Leon Clarke are sidelined for this one too, which makes the continual freezing out of players such as Kevin Doyle, Roger Johnson, Jamie O’Hara and Stephen Ward slight cause for concern.
None of that quartet have been issued with squad numbers by Jackett, so Nouha Dicko will occupy a central striking berth and is 11/8 to net anytime. James Henry (5/2) and either Michael Jacobs or summer signing Ranjiv van la Parra (11/4 to score on his bow) should flank him.
Continuity from a successful season is key for Wolves, and riding the crest of that wave makes them dangerous here, despite the absence of attackers. Norwich, meanwhile, are banking on their new strike partnership gelling, while much will be expected of Bradley Johnson in a box-to-box role and wingers like Nathan Redmond to provide regular supply.
Punters that trust Wanderers to maintain their strong defensive record from last term should definitely consider a clean sheet at 15/8 and Wolves winning to nil at 14/5. What price on successive promotions? It’s 13/2 they go up again.