Bannan eyes 'massive' Norwich clash

Congleton Guardian: Barry Bannan and his Crystal Palace team-mates face Norwich on New Year's Day Barry Bannan and his Crystal Palace team-mates face Norwich on New Year's Day

Crystal Palace midfielder Barry Bannan accepts it is fixtures like the New Year's Day showdown with Norwich that will determine whether the Eagles retain their top-flight status.

Palace returned from Saturday's trip to Manchester City with plenty of plaudits but no points in their battle to avoid being relegated straight back into the Championship.

Only goal difference presently keeps them on the right side of that dreaded jagged line, although a win on Wednesday would at the very least see them leapfrog their visitors to Selhurst Park given Norwich are three points ahead of Palace with the same goal difference.

"The next game is massive," said Bannan.

"We will be judged on the games against the teams who are around us and Norwich at home is one we expect to get something from.

"With the home crowd behind us and the confidence we have in the squad at the minute we have every reason to look forward with confidence."

Palace can count themselves distinctly unfortunate not to have become the first side to take a point off City at the Etihad Stadium.

Though they came under intense pressure at times, Tony Pulis had his side superbly organised and largely succeeded in limiting the hosts to half chances in the first half.

And with Jason Puncheon twice threatening the home goal after the interval, Palace were starting to get on top when Dzeko swept in his 50th City goal from Jesus Navas' cut-back.

Even after that, the visitors continued to press forward and it took a fine save from Joe Hart to turn away a dipping volley from Joel Ward that was heading for the bottom corner.

"A lot of people had written us off and were expecting a Manchester City goal glut," said Bannan.

"But we showed we are capable of holding our own in this league.

"It wasn't backs to the wall. We managed to stop them hurting us and when they scored we were on top.

"Joe Hart has pulled off some great saves so it is a bit devastating that we ended up with nothing."

Yet winning without being at their best is the hallmark of champions.

With Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo amongst the most notable members of Manuel Pellegrini's squad to be rested from the starting line-up, City still had just enough to preserve that impressive 100 per cent home record.

It was enough to take them top of the Premier League for the first time this season and even though it was expected to be just a temporary position, with 19 points from their last 21, it appears those nervy opening few weeks are over.

"It was very important to keep persevering," said City defender Matija Nastasic.

"We only played against Liverpool two days before and Crystal Palace defended very well.

"It was a problem to score but eventually we got the goal."

For Nastasic it was a particularly pleasing return to Pellegrini's starting line-up after eight games out with a calf problem.

"I feel okay," said the Serbian defender.

"I am 100 per cent to train and play the games and am ready for what is ahead.

"We are top of the table, which is a nice way to go into the new year.

"But we must continue this way if we are to get the first position."

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