Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 8/13
Norwich City are continuing their fight for survival on Friday evening when they’re scheduled to open the 28th round of the Premier League season together with Leicester City, who arrive to Carrow Road and will probably make it very difficult.
Sitting rock bottom of the league table with just 18 points to their name, seven less than Aston Villa – currently the lowest-placed team outside the relegation zone, things aren’t looking good for the Canaries.
Winning the Championship title last season and getting promoted in style was certainly a superb achievement. They started building on that with some exciting performances at the start of their new life in the top flight, especially when they beat defending champions Manchester City, but the harsh reality and the formidable level of the Premier League soon started pecking away at them hard. The fact that they beat Sheffield United to that Championship title means very little at the moment, given where the Blades are now. Nonetheless, manager Daniel Farke is still adamant that his team are far from waving the white flag of surrender just yet.
Some of the 17 league defeats Norwich have suffered this term were very unfortunate, but there’s no escaping the fact that there were simply too many of them, while the famous win over City was one of only four so far. The recent form is not encouraging either; since they beat Bournemouth in mid-January, they lost to Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers, and only won a point in a goalless draw away to Newcastle United.
Farke has a bit of a defensive crisis at the moment. The defeat to Liverpool has left him without the services of Sam Byram, who needed surgery and isn’t likely to play again this season, while Christoph Zimmermann picked up a hamstring problem and remains a doubt. Timm Klose suffered a serious knee injury early in the season and is not expected to be back in contention just yet.
Winger Onel Hernandez has a knee problem of his own, apparently a recurrence of an injury he had already overcome, and he’s also unavailable.
Leicester have come a long way since Brendan Rodgers took the reins just over a year ago. They almost certainly won’t be repeating the success of 2015/16 any time soon; well, not this season anyway, but it feels like the team has more substance to it than it had then and this time they just might remain near the top-end of the table for several years to come. It will most likely depend on two things – their ability to hold on to the Northern Irishman and to identify a suitable long-term replacement for their star striker, the 33-year-old Jamie Vardy soon.
At the moment, the Foxes occupy the third place in the table and as the campaign draws to its close, a season in the Champions League is gradually appearing on the horizon. It is a strong testament to the good work Rodgers has done. The fight is not quite over yet, but they are in a strong position, six points ahead of Chelsea in fourth, nine ahead of Manchester United in fifth, and 10 ahead of Spurs and the Blades in sixth and seventh, respectively.
But Leicester will have to pick their form up soon if they are to avoid a nervy finish. From their last five league games, they only managed to beat West Ham. They drew at home against Chelsea and away to Wolves, and they lost away to Burnley and at home to Manchester City last week.
While Norwich have issues in the defence, Rodgers will have to find a few answers regarding the defensive side of his midfield. Nampalys Mendy (knee) is ruled out, as is Daniel Amartey (ankle). Wilfred Ndidi could make his return from a knee problem, but it remains to be seen. Hamza Choudhury is back in contention after serving the suspension for getting sent off against Wolves, and Kelechi Iheanacho, who was controversially knocked to the ground inside the box by City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes last week, should be fine.
At first glance, this seems like a game which a team aspiring to reach the Champions League simply must win. On the other hand, every game between now and the end of the season is of crucial importance for a team sitting bottom of the table and hoping to stay in the division next season. The signs are pointing towards an exciting contest, unlikely to be settled by less than three goals given that it’ll be Vardy at one end of the pitch and Teemu Pukki at the other.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 8/13
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