1st December 2012
Having recovered well from the disappointing start to the season, Norwich aim to extend their unbeaten run to nine games and possibly inflict more misery on one of their relegation rivals. Sunderland continue to underperform and unless they return to winning ways soon, the Black Cats would become one of the main candidates for the drop.
Many were citing second season syndrome when Norwich began to struggle at the start of the new Premier League campaign, having had done so well to achieve a 12th-place finish last term. However, this proved to be completely false as the heavily reinforced squad led by talented Chris Hughton soon started to play to their potential. Home victory over then in-form Arsenal proved to be the turning point of the season for the Canaries, who went on to record positive results in next seven games, eliminating Tottenham from Capitol One Cup while climbing to mid table in the Premier League standings. Having come from a goal down against both Everton and Southampton to earn 1-1 draws, Norwich will fancy their chances in the clash with out-of-sorts Sunderland. First choice keeper John Ruddy continues to miss out, while Russell Martin is expected to return to the starting line-up.
I have to admit I was one of those expecting Sunderland to achieve a top table finish this season, believing the likes of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher would significantly improve the quality of the squad at the Stadium of Light. Nevertheless, the Black Cats experienced too many problems in the opening exchanges, as the thin squad just couldn’t cope with Lee Cattermole’s frequent absences and poor form of key midfielders Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon. Add to that the traditionally shaky back line and the lack of confidence, and you will understand why Sunderland are in such a difficult position at the moment. While the Black Cats clearly have more than enough quality to avoid the drop, I seriously doubt they can match in-form Norwich in the state they are in at the moment. Injuries to Lee Cattermole and John O’Shea only add to the worries.
With Norwich on top of their game at the moment and Sunderland completely out of form, I can see only one outcome at Carrow Road. Having beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Stoke and Manchester United in their last four home fixtures, surely the Canaries can extend the amazing run against Sunderland.
Verdict: Home win Norwich (1)
Best Odds: 6/5
Bookmaker: Paddy Power