Swansea vs Norwich | Friday 5th February 2021, 20:15 | Sky Sports
Just three teams in this season’s Championship have reached the 50-point mark just over the halfway point of the campaign, and two of them face-off on Friday night. League leaders Norwich City make the trip to Wales when visiting Swansea City in a real promotion battle. It is also likely to be a contest that is determined on fine margins as both sides are within the best three defensive records in the division.
A nine-match unbeaten run in league and cup leaves Swansea in a very good place at this point in the season. They are actually nine points better off than they were at this point in 2019/20, where they eventually relied upon a very late run to gate-crash the play-off party. Steve Cooper however will harbour much greater ambitions this time around, and they would leapfrog Brentford back into the second automatic promotion spot with a win on Friday.
As mentioned, Swansea are very strong at the back, and it would be fair to say that this has been the bedrock of their success so far. Whilst we associate them as being an attractive team in possession, which of course they are, but off the ball they’re more than efficient.
So much so, they lead the league in relation to clean sheets with a whopping 14 out of their 26 battles thus far. Eight of those came at home, which highlights the task Norwich will face. That being said, Swansea can be slightly inconsistent at home, and their league record of W7, D5, L1 suggests that. They’ve drew to the likes of Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday here, whilst also to promotion contenders Brentford, Reading and Bournemouth.
I don’t we can necessarily say Norwich are in a crisis at this moment in time, especially with them sitting top of the table, but a run of three without a win and also a goal scored in all competitions will be a bit of a concern for Daniel Farke. They do sit top of the league summit in relation to average shots on goal with 16, so it isn’t for the lack of trying.
Maybe something for the Canaries to be wary of is their away record against the top sides. Of the other teams in the current top six, they’ve travelled to four of them on the road and they’ve failed to win three of those, including narrow losses to Watford and Bournemouth.
These have all been tight games however, which is something we perhaps don’t naturally associate with Norwich because of how they blitzed the league the last time they were in this league a few seasons ago. Just one of their last ten in all competitions finished above 2.5 goals.
Goals aren’t so big for Swansea either, so much so only Derby have seen more of their Championship games end under the 2.5 line. Just five of their 26 league assignments contained three of more goals, but two of those came against teams currently in the top-seven.
I anticipate another tight clash on Friday, especially as both know the importance of three points. Norwich are currently on a two-game 0-0 run, and probably aren’t firing on all cylinders by their high standards. Swansea have only won one of seven games with the current top-seven this season, so they’ll pay plenty of respect to Farke’s side.
As highlighted above, goals are anything but guaranteed in this game despite the fact it is a top-of-the-table encounter. Norwich are deemed favourites for this one, but I do have reservations backing them given they’ve struggled for goals of late.
Swansea may not have the strongest of records against the top teams, but they’re definitely the value here. That being said, I couldn’t back them outright taking that into account, and Norwich could easily flick a switch at some point.
This game screams out bet-builder material, and Swansea Double Chance and Under 3 Goals is a worthy 6/4 (Bet365) play. Four of the last five head-to-head renewals was settled by a 1-0 score, and just one Swansea league match this season has contained four or more goals, and only four for Norwich.
One player who has made a big impact with the Swans since joining late in the transfer window is midfielder Conor Hourihane. We all know that he has what it takes to be a top player at this level based on his displays with Aston Villa and Barnsley, but he has struggled for game time in the Premier League for a while.
In fact, prior to linking up with his new side, he hadn’t played any minutes since November, and he has been making up for lost time. The Irishman has two goals in his three appearances, and that has come from only three shots on goal in total. I just can’t really ignore the 6/1 (Unibet) on offer for Hourihane to Score Anytime.