Two sides in the relegation zone meet at Carrow Road on Sunday, live in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the basement battle between Norwich City and Leeds United.
Norwich City vs Leeds United | Sunday 31st October 2021, 14:00 | Sky Sports
Just when it looked like Norwich’s season couldn’t get any worse….it got worse!
Look up the words abject, spineless, pitiful or pathetic in the dictionary and there should be a picture of Norwich’s performance against Chelsea last week to illustrate all of them!
A meek surrender where they never came close to laying a glove on the league leaders with the tone going in to the game seeming to be that they felt they had no chance, a thought process which they proved to be correct in emphatic style.
Sporting Director, Stuart Webber came out fighting this week, calling the treatment of his club by some sections of the media “Scandalous, a disgrace”, citing the Canaries, who have been accused of not “giving it a go”, had in fact spent the 11th most money in the last transfer window across Europe.
He did however, stop short of attempting a positive spin on last weekend's 7-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge describing the performance as “diabolical” and “completely unacceptable” insisting it did “not represent what this football club is about”.
Given the yo-yo nature of Norwich over the last few seasons it probably won’t surprise you to know they have been here before – as recently as 2013 when the side managed by Chris Hughton were dumped out of the EFL Cup in late October 4-0 by Manchester United and then just four days later suffered a humiliating 7-0 thumping from the blue half of the same city which left them 18th in the table.
The response was a 3-1 victory over West Ham at Carrow Road, despite falling behind to a first half Ravel Morrison strike and Daniel Farke will be calling on the same response from his 2021 vintage here against a Leeds side who have also had an unconvincing start to the new campaign.
Fans must be dreading their team being the first to be defeated by the relentlessly mocked bottom side but Marcelo Bielsa will see this as the perfect opportunity to kick-start his side’s season, after an impressive return to the top flight last campaign, sitting in the relegation zone this term after one win in nine was not the start the legendary manager would have been looking for or expecting.
Injuries have bitten hard with key men Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips missing games, Pascal Struijk was suspended for three games following his red card at Liverpool, while Raphinha has been absent due to his international commitments with Brazil – a combined result see Leeds with only three sides below them for goals conceded, and just Norwich having scored fewer than their three goals away from Elland Road.
With the Whites needing at least a point to climb out of the drop zone and the hosts five points adrift of safety and surely looking to show some fight after last weekend's horror show we should see plenty of commitment from both sides.
A 94th minute Rodrigo penalty rescued a point last weekend with just seconds remaining while the cloud of a midweek EFL cup defeat to Arsenal was improved by the silver lining that saw the return of key man Kalvin Phillips who played the full 90.
The England man's tough tackling will be a massive boost to a Leeds side who have the highest average in this discipline away from home in the league, racking up 20 per game, 23, 17, 19, 21 – so consistent too.
Although Norwich are strictly mid table in this topic, we should see an above average performance from them here hot on the heels of their Sporting Director’s rallying call asking for his side to “start well, we have to be on the front foot, we have to be brave, we have to be aggressive”.
We can indeed draw comparisons from the 2018/19 season when these two clubs were promotion rivals in the Championship – the game here at Carrow Road saw a total of 48 tackles with a huge 52 in the reverse in Yorkshire – we need nothing like those numbers to get a return here.
I am playing the 34+ match tackles available with Sky Bet at odds of 5/6.
Keeping with a similar theme I was surprised to see Brandon Williams priced as high as 11/4 to pick up a caution off of match referee Anthony Taylor, an official who has shown 26 yellow and 2 red cards from his eight EPL fixtures so far this season, the fourth highest in the top flight.
The on-loan left-back came off the bench at half time to replace Dimitris Giannoulis, who once again had a torrid 45 minutes against one of the EPL’s elite – he was also spared any more punishment at the Etihad where his manager held him accountable for an atrocious first half display.
Following that display the Greek international began the next four games on the bench and I have a feeling we may see a similar situation here – with Williams stepping in.
Being a Manchester born, aggressive tackler, in a relegation battle, against his parent club’s bitter rivals made this look a very attractive bet – the icing on the cake being that in his press conference Bielsa expected Raphinha not to have any issues being available for this game – if he does, I can see WIlliams adding to his collection of two cards in four starts, a ratio he matched in his four Europa League starts for the Red Devils last season.
Finally, I have to revisit an old favourite of mine which once again is available at a backable price.
Last week I highlighted how Mathias Normann had quickly become his side’s key player and I am banking on him to catch the eye again in this televised clash.
Like the rest of his team mates the Norwegian had a poor showing last week but still managed one of his side’s three attempts at goal, and I think probably would have had another if Norwich had been playing with a full complement for the final 30 minutes.
It will be interesting to see Farke’s approach here – keeping the 5-3-2 formation that earned his side their only points of the season with back-to-back goalless draws before the surrender last week or his favoured 4-2-3-1 system which earned plaudits and double promotion from the Championship.
I have a suspicion we will see a mix of the two with more of a 3-4-3 set up allowing more creativity in forward areas however it would be a massive surprise if Normann isn’t one of the first names on the team sheet regardless of which option the German Head Coach opts for.
Only Teemu Pukki with 14, has had more attempts at goal than the on-loan Rostov man’s 11 – but the Canaries only goal scorer this season has seen an extra 355 minutes of action.
Normann has fired in 2, 3, 2, 3, 1 shots since making his debut against Watford, and all 11 of those have been from outside the area but on checking the odds the best price I could find for two from shots outside the box was 4/5 – so therefore seeing Betfair price two shots of any description from any area of the pitch at 5/6 – that is a must play.