Norwich vs Bournemouth | Saturday 17th April 2021, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Baring something of a monumental collapse and almost every result going against them elsewhere, Norwich City should make an immediate return to the Premier League for next season.
No matter what happens from earlier in the days from the other promotion rivals, a victory at home to fellow promotion contenders Bournemouth would confirm automatic promotion. Whilst it is seemingly a foregone conclusion to make the top two, they are facing an in-form side on Saturday night, so they may not have everything their own way and they’ll be made to fight.
That is because the Cherries, under the management of Jonathan Woodgate, have strung together five league wins in succession, most recently in midweek when defeating Huddersfield Town 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium. Dominic Solanke again was on the scoresheet, but he won’t be winning any league top scorer trophy this season given the exploits of Ivan Toney and the opposing Teemu Pukki, as well as a few others.
Speaking of Pukki, he netted a hat-trick in Norwich’s last home game when hammering Bournemouth’s Tuesday conquerors Huddersfield, and they’ve only dropped points in a mere two matches since losing away to Swansea in early February.
Eleven wins and two draws in their last 13 is very much the kind of return a likely league champion would produce, and they will be very much keen on getting the automatic promotion job done on this occasion, before battling Watford for the league title itself.
Something therefore has to give when these two in-form clubs collide, doesn’t it? Well, something which these two do have in common is that if there is a time for them to be vulnerable it is generally against clubs also in the higher bracket of the league table.
Three of Norwich’s five league losses came to clubs in the top-five, including away in Bournemouth, although they’ve won at home to the likes of Swansea and Brentford. All these scores, home and away, have been close affairs.
Focusing on Bournemouth, Woodgate will be a little concerned to see their away record against top half clubs. Sure, they hammered Barnsley and edged out Stoke, but they have no other away wins against the top-12. Again, with a couple of exceptions, these have been close contests, and not all of them were under the stewardship of Woodgate, but I do think we are going to be looking at a relatively close clash in relation to score on Saturday.
Results from earlier in the day shouldn’t have an impact on this game, but it possibly could. No doubt the players from both teams will be in their hotels or wherever seeing the scores come in. Those games will finish around 2.30ish and this game doesn’t start until 8pm.
That being said, Norwich and Bournemouth are very much in control of their own respective destinies. The Canaries have top spot should they want it, whilst Bournemouth’s recent form has given them a little cushion in the play-offs, although a Reading win on Friday against Cardiff will maybe make them slightly more nervous in reducing the gap to two points ahead of kick-off.
It looks as though Norwich will have to continue with 18-year-old youth graduate Andrew Omobamidele at the heart of the defence due to injuries for Ben Gibson and Christoph Zimmermann, but he has settled into the role nicely enough alongside the experienced Grant Hanley, but Solanke will be the best forward he has faced in this mini-run since coming into the team, and this is just one of many little subplots that could determine the outcome.
As mentioned, all of the results both teams have had against the other top teams have been close, and I see nothing to change that. Bournemouth’s away record in those matches is just something I can’t get out of my head, and I predict they will narrowly come off second best on the night. Norwich win and Both Teams to Score is the main play at 3/1 (Bet365), and a tentative punt on Norwich winning 2-1 at 35/4 (RedZone) is worthy of interest.
Finally, I made a case for Solanke above against a young centre back and I like the look of him scoring at any point across the 90 minutes at 3/1 (Betfair). Arnaut Danjuma won the Player of the Month Award but I don’t think he’ll be able to dominate someone like Max Aarons like he has been doing to all of the other right backs in the league in recent times.
Solanke has three goals in his last four, and the former Liverpool man is always a threat with his movement.