Norwich v QPR | Saturday 6th April 2019, 12:30 | Sky Sports
You won’t hear this from anyone inside the Norwich dressing room, but they already look to have one foot in next season’s Premier League. They sit top of the Championship by five-points, plus they have a further seven-point advantage over third in the table Sheffield United.
Take into account the Canaries face only one of the current top 10 in their remaining seven matches, then a strong case can be made. However, there is still a job to be done, with QPR the visitors to Carrow Road on Saturday lunchtime.
It has been an eventful few days at Loftus Road after it was decided that Steve McClaren would be removed from his position as head coach earlier in the week. Assistant John Eustace is in temporary charge for this weekend at least, with names such as Tim Sherwood, Lee Bowyer and Kenny Jackett linked with the job moving forward.
Whilst Norwich are on a seven-match winning streak, the Hoops have secured only one Championship victories since Boxing Day. It therefore comes as no massive shock to see the former England boss shown the door, although it means yet another managerial change at the club.
A trip to Norwich is probably the last thing Rangers want right now. They may have an eight-point cushion over the bottom three, but that could easily become five come Saturday night.
Canaries strong favourites
This is one of those Championship games where it almost seems too easy to predict the winner. Norwich are rightly the big favourites to defeat their ou-of -orm opponents and continue their charge towards the Premier League. For all that the Canaries should really be celebrating the three points come full time, wouldn’t it just be the Championship for QPR to come along and upset the applecart. That might be wishful thinking for even the most ardent of Queens Park Rangers supporter.
A strong case is made for Norwich. Remember that rather bizarre 4-3 home defeat to Derby County on 29th December? Well, they’ve only lost once more in the league since then, and claimed a further 33 points in the process. They could have so easily spiralled after a setback in those circumstances, but they’ve actually used it to their advantage. Much to the credit of Daniel Farke.
The Norfolk outfit are the top scorers in the division, with finishing Finn Teemu Pukki netting 24 of the 81 that they’ve netted in the 39 league contests to date. The last time Norwich failed to score in the league was the 0-0 away draw in Hull back in November. Only on that occasion and the home losses to Leeds and Stoke have Norwich not scored in a league match. Scoring in 36 of 39 games is some going.
Norwich have shipped 48 goals in their own net, which is worse than bottom half side Stoke, but 31% clean sheets isn’t to be sniffed at either.
Rangers out of form
For all the W’s on the Norwich City form guide, there are plenty of L’s on the QPR equivalent. Their last two defeats being at home to relegation scrappers Rotherham and Bolton is probably the main reason why McClaren is no longer in the job. They’ve won just once in their last 15 (W1-D4-L10) Championship outings, which ironically was at home to promotion hopefuls Leeds.
The R's have conceded far, far too many goals at the moment as well. Whilst scoring goals has become a concern too. These two issues being an obvious recipe for footballing disaster. They are perhaps lucky that they’ve had a few good runs of form from earlier in the campaign, otherwise they’d be in much deeper trouble right now. Eustace will surely look to make them much harder to beat, certainly in the short-term.
Only Blackburn, Ipswich, Bolton and Rotherham have conceded more than QPR in the league. Remember me saying Norwich is probably the last place QPR would want to go this weekend? That is another reason why. They look far too vulnerable when they come under pressure.
In their last match, at home to Bolton, they certainly created enough chances to get something out of the game, but defensively they never convinced. A side like Norwich could cause some serious damage on that evidence, but QPR will look to dig in and make life tough for the top team.
Norwich to cut loose
Finding a better angle in a match like this is always a challenge. A title contender in great form at home to a struggling side in the bottom half that has just sacked their manager. Finding appropriate and attractive value is always the issue in this case. However, there will always be something to find, and I’d like to think I’ve found a little something.
There are two plays I’m going with on this occasion, both intending to keep Norwich firmly onside. I am more than aware that a change of manager at QPR could lead to some degree of improvement, but the form guide only suggests one winner here.
Clearly Norwich are scoring plenty of goals and QPR are conceding at an alarming rate too. There is something that will become apparent when looking at the amount of goals the Canaries are netting per game. They’re scoring an average of exactly 2.00 goals per league game so far. Only Aston Villa and West Brom have scored more home goals than Norwich.
Quite incredibly, over their last 11 home Championship matches, they’ve scored 3+ on nine of those occasions. That includes over struggling teams such as Millwall, Rotherham, Bolton and rivals Ipswich, all in the same area of the table as QPR. QPR on the flip side have conceded 2+ in eight of their last 10 in the Championship.
Norwich to score Over 2.5 Goals is a 17/10 (Paddy Power) shot that is worthy of some interest.
Buendia to strike
Finally, I wanted to go down a goalscorer angle for this game. Naturally, you look towards Pukki for obvious reasons, but the value on him now continues to drain and drain. We can’t necessarily say he is on the decline or anything like that, but four league matches without a goal probably is a draught for his ridiculously high standards. QPR will be particularly keen on keeping him quiet, so the door will probably open up elsewhere.
Norwich have goal threats from all across the pitch, but one area they have lots of joy in is out wide. They probably have the best full back and winger combination in the league with Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Emiliano Buendia and Onel Hernandez causing havoc on a weekly basis. It is within this area I fancy Norwich to score within, and it is also an area that QPR are seemingly having some trouble in defending recently.
I’ve looked over the last run of QPR games and there was something I noticed about the types of player that is scoring against them. There is a lot of wide men finding the back of the net, suggesting that the Hoops are seemingly vulnerable in this position. Will Buckley, Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, Jonny Howson, Jefferson Montero, Josh Murphy and Niclas Eliasson are all opposing players that played in a wide role against QPR over the last couple of months and managing to score.
Perhaps I might be looking too much into that, or it might be a coincidence. Or, it could just be something that teams are looking to exploit.
With that in mind, I’m happy to have a play on Buendia to score at Anytime at 5/2 (Betfair). He along with Hernandez are Norwich’s joint-second highest scorers in the league with 7. The 22-year-old Argentinian has three in his last four, so I just look towards him given he is in better scoring form. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see both net however, in what should be another confident Norwich victory.
Norwich v QPR – Norwich to score Over 2.5 Goals (17/10 Paddy Power)
Norwich v QPR – Emiliano Buendia to score at anytime (5/2 Betfair)