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OUR PREMIER LEAGUE OPPONENTS: PART ONE

15 June 2015

In-focus: our top flight rivals in 2015-16

WITH the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League fixtures released this week, we profile the teams Norwich City will face over the course of the season. First up, Part One.

ARSENAL
 

Manager: Arsene Wenger
Home: Emirates Stadium
2014-15: 3rd
Twitter: @Arsenal

Fact
: Gunners and England full-back Kieran Gibbs, then just 18, spent three months on loan at Norwich City in 2008.

Arsenal's 2014-15 was a close reflection of their previous campaign, and not only because of their successful defence of the FA Cup.

The Gunners thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley to earn back-to-back triumphs in the competition, but as in 2013-14 they exited the League Cup early, were eliminated from the last 16 of the Champions League and failed to mount a serious title bid.


Long-serving manager Arsene Wenger will, however, be encouraged by the form shown in the second half of the season, especially around Christmas, and he continues to have a wealth of attacking options available when all fit.

The north Londoners will be looking for an incredible 20th consecutive top four finish under the Frenchman in 2015-16, but it is silverware by which they will ultimately be judged once again.

ASTON VILLA

Manager: Tim Sherwood
Home: Villa Park
2014-15: 17th
Twitter: @AVFCOfficial

Fact
: A number of Villa’s staff have City connections: Manager Tim Sherwood played at Carrow Road between 1989 and 1992, while coaches Mark Robson and Tony Parks recently served in the backroom team at Colney.

Aston Villa's season may have concluded with disappointment in the FA Cup final against Arsenal - but Premier League survival meant it was mission accomplished for Tim Sherwood.

The one-time European Cup winners looked in danger of losing their top flight status after a frustrating campaign, but replacing Paul Lambert with Sherwood in February had the desired effect for the Birmingham club.


Helped by the return to form of talismanic frontman Christian Benteke, Villa did just about enough to book a top flight for next season, finishing in 17th place.

Supporters will be hoping that the club can build on their promise under Sherwood to enjoy a more comfortable ride in 2015-16.

BOURNEMOUTH

Manager: Eddie Howe
Home: Goldsands Stadium
2014-15: 1st (Sky Bet Championship)
Twitter: @afcbournemouth

Fact
: Bournemouth were the best of the bunch in the Sky Bet Championship last season – but couldn’t beat Canaries. They earned a point at Carrow Road last August, but were defeated 2-1 in Alex Neil’s first game as City boss in January.

Eddie Howe has earned plaudits - and awards - for his work as Bournemouth manager, and his team are now set for their first ever crack at the top tier of English football.

The Cherries secured the Sky Bet Championship title on the final day of the regular 2014-15 season after seeing off Charlton Athletic 3-0 at the Valley, completing a fairytale story for the highly-rated boss and his players.


Howe has moved quickly to improve his squad ahead of their Barclays Premier League bow, already securing the services of Joshua King, Adam Federici and Christian Atsu, along with Artur Boruc following a successful loan spell.

With the Goldsands Stadium holding just 11,700 supporters, Bournemouth will have the smallest stadium capacity of any of City's rivals.

CHELSEA

Manager: Jose Mourinho
Home: Stamford Bridge
2014-15: 1st
Twitter: @ChelseaFC

Fact
: City are the last team in all competitions to prevent Chelsea from scoring at Stamford Bridge. Neil Adams’ side held the Blues to a 0-0 stalemate in their Premier League meeting in May 2014.

Chelsea took the Premier League title at a canter in 2014-15, the fifth league triumph in the London club's history.

Jose Mourinho also added the League Cup to the trophy cabinet in an impressive year, but honours have been the minimum requirement during Roman Abramovich's reign.


Fans will be wary of two refreshed Manchester clubs in 2015-16, but Mourinho's men will undoubtedly start the season as favourites to defend their crown.

They will hope for a stronger performance in the Champions League, however, after exiting at the round of 16 stage against ten-man Paris St Germain in March.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Manager: Alan Pardew
Home: Selhurst Park
2014-15: 10th
Twitter: @CPFC

Fact
: The head-to-head record between the Eagles and City is very close; in their meetings, Palace have won 45 matches with Norwich triumphing in 44.

The appointment of ex-player Alan Pardew as their manager proved a masterstroke with the Eagles soaring to a top-ten finish last month.

Tony Pulis' resignation just days before the season's start and Neil Warnock's unsuccessful four-month tenure left Palace as one of the favourites for the drop around the festive period.


But as Pardew sought sanctuary from his turbulent spell at Newcastle, Palace needed an inspirational head to lead a revival - and it was a coupling that worked to perfection.

Holding on to his prized assets over the summer will be key for the 53-year-old as he readies his team for their third consecutive Barclays Premier League term.

Look out for Part Two soon, featuring Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

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