Bet of the Day: Birmingham to Lead at HT, Norwich to Win in Championship

Published on: January 18, 2019
Author: Antonia Kelly
Teemu Pukki

Friday night’s Championship clash involves two sides still very much in the mix for promotion as third-placed hosts Norwich welcome Garry Monk’s improving Blues to Carrow Road. The hosts dropped out of the automatic promotion slots last weekend after a hard-fought draw at West Brom, and boss Daniel Farke will be hoping that by playing before everyone else this weekend they can place a bit of pressure on front-runners Leeds and Sheffield United.

The visitors are without a win in three Championship outings, and in their last four matches overall; last weekend, they showed plenty of fight in defence but still saw their colours lowered by Middlesbrough. Should they win here they would, at least temporarily, climb above Bristol City into seventh place. If they hope to win promotion, it will probably be via the play-offs – but with such a packed field in the top half of the table, they’ll need to pick up points even in tough assignments like this evening’s match.

It’s been hard to ignore Norwich’s thrill-a-minute approach to seeking promotion this season – they’ve been as wobbly at the back as they are incisive going forward. Stunningly, their last seven league games have seen a decisive goal scored in the last fifteen minutes. Jordan Rhodes’ 83rd-minute strike rescued a point at West Brom, while defender Timm Klose notched an equaliser in the previous league outing at Brentford. Their Finnish forward Teemu Pukki is among the Premier League’s top scorers, and Coral have him listed at 6/5 (2.20) to notch again here.

Norwich To Pull Another Great Escape?

It may be a late game, but we wouldn’t expect many Canaries fans to leave Carrow Road before the final whistle in search of an early night. Their club’s last two home games have seen incredible late drama, with Norwich falling 3-0 behind to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day before Mario Vrancic (77 minutes) and a double from Onel Hernandez (coming four, and then eight, minutes into time added on) rescued a point. Three days later, visitors Derby seemed to have been beaten by Pukki’s 81st-minute strike, but the Rams scored on 87 and 92 minutes for a 4-3 win.

This game is liable, like the others, to be decided late on. With Norwich having plenty of attacking riches but questionable game management, we think Paddy Power’s 20/1 (21.00) is a surprisingly generous price on a Birmingham half-time lead turning into an eventual win for the men in yellow. In a bid to tighten things up at the back, there is a decent chance that Farke will again pick young centre-half Ben Godfrey at the expense of Klose in the heart of the home defence – not least because the youngster seems better-equipped to deal with the pace of Blues forward Che Adams.

Adams has been linked with a move away from St. Andrews in this window, with as many as half the clubs in the Premier League rumoured to be interested in adding the Leicester-born speedster to their attack. He could certainly give any watching scouts something to put in their reports by finding the net against a side that has led the Championship for much of this season.

Expect A Few Goals In This One

With Pukki, Rhodes and Hernandez – among others – in the Norwich ranks, and Adams striking up a profitable partnership with powerful Blues target-man Lukas Jutkiewicz, the smart money is pointing towards this match not finishing goalless. This is the first league game of 2019 to be played at Carrow Road, and the final two of 2018 had a total of thirteen goals between them. While they may not maintain that breakneck scoring pace indefinitely, there seems to be plenty of value in Betway’s 15/2 (8.50) on Norwich winning and the game featuring more than 4.5 goals.

The Canaries have won just one of their last six games in the league, so it might be tempting to back them to continue this indifferent form. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that they’ve continued to rescue points from losing positions. Even when not playing at their best, they’ve tended to get something from the game – and when you bear in mind that Birmingham have picked up just two points from the last possible nine, Monk’s side don’t seem like the best-placed team to take advantage of an East Anglian wobble. We’re expecting a thrilling game with plenty of goals on both sides, but in the final analysis would expect the home side to take all three points.

Bet of the Day:

Paddy Power’s 20/1 on Birmingham HT/Norwich FT; Teemu Pukki to score; Norwich win and >4.5 goals