As March gets into full flow, here are five Championship teams still in with a realistic chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League. Since the start of 2019, three teams have been swapping the top two spots between them – a disappointing weekend last time out meaning that Sheffield United gave up their place to Yorkshire rivals Leeds. However, there is one team considered by bookmakers to be an absolute stick-on for promotion. Norwich, at the time of kick-off this evening, are ⅙ with Paddy Power to be playing in the top flight next season.
Tonight’s action sees the Canaries take on the Swans, in a battle which would be a total mismatch in the avian world but makes for an interesting contest in football. Visitors Swansea City have not experienced the immediate bounceback that relegated sides hope for but, under innovative coach Graham Potter, have shown signs of development which were mostly absent as they dropped like a stone from the Premier League at the end of last season. They’ll represent a test for Norwich here; one the East Anglian side should pass, but far from a foregone conclusion.
Norwich Should Have Enough To Win
At this stage of a season, any side at the top of the league knows that they just need to keep doing what they have been doing so well for the previous seven months. However, as any fan who supports a side in that situation knows, it’s difficult not to think ahead, and that’s when teams can come unstuck. Until it’s mathematically confirmed, promotion will sit agonisingly out of reach on the horizon for Norwich. It’s how they deal with the weekly job of picking up points that will govern whether they can celebrate sooner or later.
It’s to Daniel Farke’s advantage that his side comes up against a Swansea team that is neither fighting against relegation nor still nursing any hopes of promotion. A professional set of players, Swansea will still want to win here – but they are likely to lack the additional inspiration of having their eyes on a specific prize, and we’d back Norwich to live up to Ladbrokes’ (fairly generous) 8/13 odds for the win in this game. They’d only be human to feel some nervousness at this point, but it didn’t stop them battering Millwall 3-1 last weekend; a similar outcome would be unsurprising here.
Top Scorers To Keep Finding The Net
In many ways, Norwich coach Farke is seen as the Klopp of the Championship. Having picked up experience at Borussia Dortmund, the affable German has imbued his current side with the attacking principles that are second nature at the current Bundesliga leaders. After 35 games of the season, the Canaries have hit 71 goals in league action; they’re the only team in the division to average over two goals per game. It’s that attack, focused around Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, that will be crucial in seeing them through the remaining eleven games.
Given Norwich’s four wins from their last five outings, Farke’s team talk is likely to be some variation on “Keep doing what’s clearly working”, and so we can expect a fairly high-scoring clash at Carrow Road this evening. Unibet are offering 29/20 on there being over 3.5 goals in this game, and there’s plenty of value in that. They may well concede, too – their record of 45 goals against is comfortably the highest among the top three sides – and as the visit to Millwall shows, their “we’re going to score more than you” approach can lead to high-scoring games.
Pukki To Be On Target Again
With eight goals in 37 appearances for Schalke, and seven in 26 for Celtic, Teemu Pukki’s career seemed to be turning into a story of a gifted player who never really kicked on to achieve genuine success. Post-Celtic, he moved on to Brondby in Denmark, and a record of 55 goals in 130 games – along with the work ethic he developed in Scandinavia – encouraged Farke to take a chance on him. It’s paid off spectacularly, to the point where Celtic fans must imagine that there was a second Teemu Pukki somewhere, or perhaps an evil twin of some sort. Pukki is the Championship’s top scorer with 24 in 32, and has scored in his last six games.
In that kind of form, William Hill’s odds of ¾ that he will score at some point in this game look positively generous. Pukki fired two in the visit to Millwall, and with a support crew of skilful creative players that includes Onel Hernandez and Emiliano Buendia, each match at the moment feels like a case of when Pukki will score and not if. With eleven games left, the likelihood of the Finnish international crossing the 30-goal mark for the season grows with each game, and Swansea will need to be permanently on their guard if they are to limit the damage caused by a player who is enjoying his football more with each passing game.
Bet of the Day
More than 3.5 goals (29/20, Unibet); Pukki to score anytime (¾, William Hill); Norwich to win (8/13, Ladbrokes)