Norwich v Sheffield Wednesday | Friday 19th April 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
There is every chance you’ll be reading this after the 3pm Bank Holiday matches in the Championship have finished. One match those of a Norwich persuasion will be paying close attention too is Sheffield United versus Nottingham Forest. A defeat for the Blades would then mean three points for Daniel Farke’s Canaries would confirm their return to the Premier League.
Sheffield Wednesday’s play-off push has realistically ended already, but it could be as good as realistically over if results go against them earlier in the day. The reality for them is they need four wins from their final four, and then hope of the best elsewhere.
Norwich probably ruined plenty of accas last Sunday when drawing 1-1 away from home to relegation-threatened Wigan. The 5,000 strong travelling support went home a little disappointed, but a late equaliser from goal-machine Teemu Pukki at least gave them a point to celebrate. That extended their unbeaten run to 10, meaning it is just one loss from their previous 17 in the league.
The Owls had been going great guns under Steve Bruce, but two defeats in their last two does look to have ended their push for the top-six. Those two losses are the only ones the club have suffered under the management of Bruce, so it just goes to show how much ground they’ve made up from the Jos Luhukay era to even give themselves a squeak of sixth place.
Losing to Aston Villa and Leeds is no disgrace however, and it is probably just a reality check of where they are at this moment in time. Many will fancy them to have a serious promotion push next season, but the next four games are important in terms of making plans for the next campaign. Wednesday lost 4-0 to Norwich earlier in the season, so big improvement is needed in that regard.
Norwich missing Buendia
One thing that has struck me over the past few weeks is that Norwich really do miss tricky Argentinian winger Emiliano Buendia. He will serve the third and final game of his suspension on Friday, and only when he is taken out of the side can you really see how important he is.
Todd Cantwell has come in, but he just isn’t as much of a natural wide man and offers something different. The combination of Max Aarons and Buendia down the right and Lewis and Onel Hernandez down the left has been a big part of their success this season. Taking just one of them out weakens them enough to have a significant impact.
Whilst Buendia is again out of action here, I just feel Norwich will want to give it another big push at three points. Two draws from their last two against sides battling relegation has led some to suggest Norwich are feeling the pressure to a degree. It is unfair to suggest that as facing sides will everything to play for at the bottom of the table is no easy three points in this league.
Wednesday could be starting to enter ‘end of season mode’ and now may be a good time to face them. Adam Reach is a big doubt and takes away a handy goal threat, plus Bruce could easily start to make a change or two with next season in mind.
Canaries to get the job done
Even if Sheff Utd win earlier in the day, I fancy Norwich to get the job done. Sheff Wed won’t make it easy for them and the continued absence of Buendia means I have to have some kind of security on my bet.
Norwich -1 on the Asian Handicap is a worthy 89/100 (Blacktype) chance. A one-goal margin of victory at least gets your stake back at the very, very least.
One bet which has earned plenty of people a few quid this season often exploits the fact that Norwich tend to end games especially strong. They have a whopping 29 goals from the 76th minute onwards in league matches this season, 17 of those coming at Carrow Road. That is by far the highest amount of goals they’ve scored within any 15-minute segment so far.
Slow burner in store?
It also means that 66% of their goals have arrived in the second half of games. Whilst Sheff Wed tend to score plenty in this time as well, something more worrying is that they’ve conceded 69% of their goals after the second half restart.
We’re just getting to that stage of the season where nerves do kick in for those with something to play for. These are humans after all and for many of this Norwich side, they are potentially days away from playing in the top-flight for the first time in their careers.
Regardless of how Sheff Utd do earlier in the day, I can just see Norwich perhaps taking time to come to the boil. They’ve not scored in the first half of those last two, which have ended in draws, so there is every chance it could be three in a row.
Something quite interesting is that the most popular home score in Norwich home matches at half-time this is actually for them to be 1-0 down. That has happened six times. They’ve only been winning at half-time in only 11/42 so far. 31/42 to not be winning at half-time is a very significant number and that has to be noted.
With that being the case and with Norwich often getting better as the game progresses, I like the look of two selections for this game.