Norwich v Birmingham: Entertainment expected on Friday night

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Friday night's match-up between high-flying Norwich and Birmingham at Carrow Road.

Norwich v Birmingham | Friday 18th January 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Sky Sports have selected quite a good tie for Friday night coverage in this weekend’s list of Championship games. Both teams have perhaps surprised many by where they are in the league standings after 27 games of competitive action.

Norwich know a victory here would take them into second position prior to the remaining games this weekend, whilst Birmingham would only be one point outside the play-offs should they emerge victorious.

Daniel Farke deserves particular credit for how he has moulded Norwich into much more of a team this time around. Having more of a settled side has certainly played a big role in their transformation, along with some handy pre-season recruits.

The Canaries' recent form however does strike some alarm bells in the sense of them returning to how they were last season, but they remain in a great position regardless. Farke is not putting any pressure on his team by saying they are fighting for promotion, taking each game as it comes.

Garry Monk is likely to be a strong contender for Manager of the Season as things stand. The well-documented transfer embargo has prevented Birmingham from adding too many new faces to their squad during his tenure at the club.

Still, they are a side that no opposition particular enjoys facing at this level. They play to their strengths, are well-organised and on their day they can surprise a few teams. They travel to Norwich as underdogs, which won’t displease them at all, but knowing they have a chance of emerging with a positive result.

That is why I am swerving the 1×2 market on this game. Norwich are favourites and understandable so, but they are winless in five, winning just once in their last seven in all competitions. They’ve only lost twice in that period as well, once in the FA Cup to Portsmouth and the other in dramatic fashion at home to Derby, when conceding twice in added time. They remain hard to beat.

The same can be said of the Blues, with only six teams defeating them across the Championship campaign so far. One of those came last time out at home to Middlesbrough, a game where they will have felt they warranted a draw at the very least. Boro very much ‘did a job’ that day, much to the delight of Tony Pulis.

Birmingham themselves are winless in four, winning just twice in their previous eight in all competitions. As much as backing Norwich might seem the easy thing to do, you just cannot discount Birmingham too lightly. A draw would be no great shock.

Both sides can oblige

One line I do particular favour is Both Teams To Score, which is available at 10/11 (Betfred). The numbers and recent form suggests there is indeed a little value despite this ultimately remaining an odds-on selection. One thing we can generally rely upon from Norwich is for them to score. They’ve only failed to score in 11% of their league games this season. Birmingham aren’t too far behind either on 26%.

Both teams also have achieved clean sheets in roughly one-third of their league matches so far as well. Norwich have scored for eight games running, whilst Birmingham have netted in each of their last nine on the road.

Games at Carrow Road of late have been particular open as well. Their last five in the league on home soil has ended 3-4, 3-3, 3-2, 3-1 and 4-3. Birmingham offer a threat themselves away from St Andrews, scoring twice at Aston Villa, Millwall, Blackburn and Wigan over the last few months.

Carrow Road games average 3.70 goals this season, whilst BTTS has paid out in 64% of Norwich’s Championship clashes, and in over half of Birmingham’s, too.

Flying Finn can fire again

If we’re backing Norwich to find the back of the net in this match, then there is a good chance it is going to come from a certain striker. Of the 49 goals scored by the Canaries in the league, 15 has come from Finnish international forward Teemu Pukki.

He has been a revelation since arriving in East Anglia last summer and is very much the first name on Farke’s team sheet right now. He is a goal on average every 63 minutes, which is some going. Any team that has promotion aspirations needs a regular scorer and Pukki is that man.

Considering Norwich’s second highest scoring is Jordan Rhodes on six, it suggests there is a degree of pressure upon Pukki to deliver the goods, even if others do chip in from elsewhere. Considering those 15 has arrived in 24 appearances, it further enhances his reputation.

Birmingham will need to be on their A-Game for 90 minutes to keep the former Celtic man quiet over 90 minutes.

Canaries come to the fore after half-time

Now this next selection may suggest that we are edging towards a Norwich win in this game. That is not necessarily the case, but we have noticed that Norwich do often end matches quite well, with the Derby game being the exception!

Birmingham wouldn’t necessarily be too unhappy with a draw from this one, so they could start to sit back late on if the scored are levels.

We’re backing Norwich to by gung-ho in the second period and outscore the Blues over the second 45. The numbers back up the prospect of this happening as well. What is quite telling is that 78% of Norwich’s goals scored in the league this season do occur in the second half.

Over two-thirds of the goal Birmingham concede arrive in the same period as well. Those numbers don’t differ too much when focusing purely on Norwich home and Birmingham away fixtures either. Norwich Second Half Result is priced nicely at 6/5 (Betfair).

Late goal drama

In a continuing from the selection above, we do believe that a late goal will be added in the contest. We’ll keep the consolation of it possibly arriving from Birmingham but saying a goal will be scored outright.

Focusing on both teams, the one period in which they have scored the most goals is in the 76-90 (full time) period. 21/49 of Norwich’s goals (incredible numbers) and 11/39 of Birmingham’s come in this specific time frame. Birmingham tend to experience those more in home games however, as they’ve netted only four times late on in an away fixture.

The Canaries have scored 13 times in this section at home, and if Birmingham do sit back then they may invite some pressure. However, if Norwich do overcommit, then Birmingham do have the like of Che Adams and co to cause some possible damage on the break.

Best Bets

Norwich v Birmingham – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Betfred)

Norwich v Birmingham – Teemu Pukki to score at anytime (5/4 Bet365)

Norwich v Birmingham – Norwich to wn the second-half (6/5 Betfair)

Norwich v Birmingham – Time of Last Goal 76-Full Time (23/20 Betway)

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