Chelsea v Norwich City | Saturday 23rd October 2021, 12:30 | BT Sport 1
Chelsea got their Champions League campaign back on track by cruising to a 4-0 thrashing of Malmö but the midweek victory came at a cost with injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner – ruling both out of this Saturday lunchtime clash with the Canaries.
With a favourable run of fixtures starting with this home game with the EPL’s rock bottom outfit, I’m sure Thomas Tuchel would have liked to have seen his first-choice strikers get back amongst the goals – especially the £97.5m marquee signing Lukaku who has gone seven games without a goal for the Blues with his manager believing him to be “mentally tired”.
As one door closes – or two in this case – it opens for the likes of Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech to state their case – while it will be interesting to see if the “prolific” Ben Chilwell (three goals in his last four games) will start after playing 154 minutes in the last seven days, or if Tuchel sees this as a good game to rotate in Marcos Alonso.
If the left-back starter was known to be at time of writing I would be interested in playing the “shots on target” or “to score” markets with Norwich susceptible to the ball from right to left and both those aforementioned players having a great ability to arrive in to the box at the right time.
Daniel Farke’s side did concede three goals against Manchester City from crosses when in behind left back Dimitris Giannoulis, a performance which saw the Greek international hooked at half time, receive a rebuke from his manager and lose his place to on-loan Manchester United full back Brandon Williams.
Interestingly Giannoulis has since won back his starting place and so it will be a fascinating battle on that side of the pitch where I am sure he will be keen to right those Etihad wrongs, but still makes a play on Chilwell or Alonso a viable one once teams are announced at around 11:30am.
But here is a bet we can definitely get on board with without hesitation!
Norwich’s early season woes have been well documented and while I feel accusations of the “self-funded” club’s failure to “have a go” or being content to “yo-yo” is wide of the mark or just plain lazy click bait, there is no doubting there has been considerable room for improvement on the pitch.
Excuses are there – a COVID outbreak affecting 11 players just three weeks before the start of the season resulting in two weeks of pre-season being ripped up, meaning an undercooked side going in to battle with the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Leicester in their opening three fixtures, whilst still working on many things and integrating seven summer signings (another two key additions in Normann and Kabak didn’t join until the closing days of the window) in to a team shorn of their Player of the Season who was directly involved in 40% of their goals in the Championship winning campaign from the prior year.
Equally most of the stats are damming, a failure to score in 15 of their last 18 EPL games, winning none of those fixtures, collecting just two points, scoring three goals and conceding 40.
However, considering this game will mean they have faced four of last season’s top five in their opening nine games their underlaying data does show some shoots of recovery, with an xG of 6.79 and xPTS of 6 – so in essence their play has deserved three times as many goals and points than they have on the board.
That being said Chelsea are as short as 1/6 for a reason and without a loss to Norwich since 1994, a run of 17 games, with the Canaries last win here coming the year before – it is unlikely we will see the first bottom of the table side beat the EPL leaders in 10 years.
Most markets to get the Chelsea win onside are understandably prohibitive – however there is a regular winner which we can snap up at odds of 10/11 with Sky Bet.
The aforementioned 4-0 win in the UCL was a rare one for a Thomas Tuchel led Chelsea, not the winning part of course, or the clean sheet – win-to-nil, but the margin of victory and goals scored.
The German coach has overseen 27 EPL games in charge of the Blues winning 17 (63%) of those games (D6, L4), with his side keeping a total of 16 clean sheets scoring 41 goals.
Of the 17 wins, 12 have come to-nil and 15 (88%) with less than four goals scored as a total – the recent win over Southampton being one of the exceptions, but having been reduced to 10 men in the 77th minute before going on to concede goals in the 84th and 89th minutes.
Take in to account the loss of two key attackers, the likelihood of a slightly rotated side given the game on Wednesday night and with this being the early Saturday kick off it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a low scoring win for the home side.
Couple this with the fact the incredible Chelsea defence have only conceded a joint EPL low three goals this season while Norwich have only scored one goal from open play, and if you saw Josh Sargent’s open goal miss against Brighton, although not quite on the Ronnie Rosenthal scale of horrendous (google it kids) we can see why.
Under Daniel Farke, Norwich’s EPL away record reads – Played 23, Won 1, Drawn 4, Lost 18 (78%), scoring 7 goals and shipping 46 – they have drawn a blank in 16 (70%) including each of the last 6.
Since Norwich changed their formation to a three at the back with a more robust three in midfield, there has been a clear emphasis on improving their defensive habits and providing a solid platform to build upon – this will be considered to have been some kind of success with back-to-back clean sheets at Burnley and at home to Brighton – however, this of course will be a sterner test.
There is enough to suggest that we will see the expected win for the hosts but not with an avalanche of goals – so the Chelsea win and Under 3.5 Goals in the match at 10/11 is my main play here.
Norwich fans must be wondering how Brentford have excelled in the early stages of the EPL season, a team their side took four points off of last season in going on to finish10 points clear of Thomas Frank’s side back in third as clear winners of the Championship.
However, Farke’s side must take heart from the problems the Bees caused the European champions last weekend – albeit on home soil, with Chelsea hanging on at times and keeper Edouard Mendy having to use practically every body part to thwart the rampant home side.
Ultimately Brentford lost, yes, in another win-to-nil, in another win and under 3.5 goals Tuchel trademark but, and it is a big but, the newly promoted side had FIVE times the xG of their more illustrious neighbours in restricting Chelsea to just 0.3.
One man that has certainly impressed and we could see try and follow this template against the league leaders is Mathias Normann, officially on loan from Russian side Rostov, but with an obligation for Norwich to buy should they prove the critics wrong and stay up – should they fail in that mission I would be shocked not to see the Norwegian international still plying his trade there in different colours.
The 25-year-old, has been the main spark for his side in recent weeks, creating four chances including the assist for the only goal scored from open play, and taking 10 shots in just 312 minutes of league action at an average of one shot every 31 minutes – he is also the main man for any set pieces, so will be grabbing the ball for any free kicks around the box.
Normann has struggled with some fitness issues in his early appearances, with his manager admitting his preparation for last weekend’s game was far from perfect. but with another week of training, a full 90 is possible at Chelsea.
So not being prepared to second guess Thomas Tuchel’s team selection I am playing it safe with, barring something unforeseen at literally the 11th hour, a player who will be one of the first names on his managers team sheet, Normann has fired in 2, 3, 2, 3 shots in his opening games – the 5/2 on offer with Betfair for at least two shots of any description here is far too big.
These shots don’t have to be on target and a reminder that Normann is on free kicks and also of the 10 shots he has fired in so far ALL have been from outside the area – so we aren’t even relying on breaking in to the box – two row Z pot shots will do just fine!
Finally, I am sticking with a Norwich player bet as if they are to have any hope of even keeping in this game, they will need to get in amongst this high-quality Chelsea outfit.
One player who has already shown he loves to do just that, is another summer signing, Pierre Lees-Melou.
The former Nice man tops the Canaries stats for tackles won with 23 from his 603 minutes of action at 3.3 per game but also has committed more fouls than any of his team mates with nine so far of which two resulted in yellow cards.
Odds of 6/1 with Bet 365 look too big here in what should be a feisty midfield, referee Andy Madley is not the best official we could hope for in this market having shown just six cards in his three EPL appointments so far but if there are to be any in this tie, I would expect one of Lees-Melou, Ozan Kabak or Normann to be the ones to call him in to action – but at the prices it is the French midfielder that get my vote.