Championship leaders Norwich welcome second-placed Brentford to Carrow Road for a mouthwatering match-up on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire shares his thoughts.
"Recent skirmishes between these well-matched pair have tended to be tight and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Wednesday evening’s encounter go against the goals grain"
Norwich v Brentford
Wednesday March 3, 17:30
Norwich cement top spot
Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia combined again for Norwich on Sunday, to re-establish the Championship leaders' seven-point lead at the summit with a hard-fought 2-0 win at rock-bottom Wycombe. Pukki's 18th goal of the season - set up by Buendia in the 51st minute - broke Wanderers' resistance after the Canaries emerged from half-time with greater intent.
Adam Idah then came off the bench to get his first goal since September, scrambling in at a corner in the latter stages to confirm a fifth consecutive victory. Speaking post-match, City boss Daniel Farke said: "We are absolutely happy with 70 points at this stage, but we know we have to be relentless and keep going. I want to have 80 points as soon as possible."
Farke made two changes to his XI, with Ben Gibson returning in central defence and Onel Hernandez making his first league start since October, with Todd Cantwell missing out with a calf injury. Cantwell's chances of being fit for Wednesday night's heavyweight clash are "less than 50%" according to the Canaries supremo with Hernandez likely to keep his place.
Brentford go back-to-back
Ivan Toney scored his 25th Championship goal of the season as Brentford fought back to beat Stoke 2-1 on Saturday and consolidate their position in the automatic promotion places. The hosts had trailed after just 27 seconds when goalkeeper David Raya inexplicably passed straight to Potters wing-back Tommy Smith, who squared for Jacob Brown to tap in.
Thomas Frank's side were lethargic in the first half, but levelled in style after the break through Vitaly Janelt's arrowed strike into the top corner from nearly 25 yards. Stoke hit the bar thereafter, but the West Londoners deservedly took top honours when the returning Toney slotted past Angus Gunn from Bryan Mbeumo's nod-down with 10 minutes to play.
After an unexpected three-game losing streak, Brentford have won back-to-back games with Frank saying: "In all seasons, but especially this one, every team will go through a dip at a certain stage, but it's the ones that can handle it best that will be successful. In the second half we went from level five to level nine. We were quicker moving forward, we took the initiative, and we had a much bigger mentality and attitude, which is very pleasing."
Norwich hold a W4-D3-L2 head-to-head record against Brentford in the duos most recent league meetings dating back to the beginning of 2014/15. Matches between the pair have tended to be tight affairs - the past four fixtures of which have featured a maximum of two goals, including the reverse contest in October that ended all-square (1-1).
Norwich 2.265/4 have suffered a league-low five losses (W21-D7-L5) with the Canaries proving particularly impressive since October's international break. Daniel Farke's outfit have W20-D6-L3 over their last 29 tussles with the hosts also posting the league's second-best W10-D5-L1 home record - that includes W5-D2-L0 when welcoming top-half teams.
Brentford 3.55 made their traditionally slow start to the Championship season but the Bees' form since October's international break has been exceptional, bar a slight recent wobble (W17-D8-L4). The visitors boast an impressive W8-D4-L4 road record and have posted W4-D3-L1 when taking on top-half teams on their travels.
Recent skirmishes between these well-matched pair have tended to be tight and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Wednesday evening's encounter go against the goals grain, considering the importance of the Carrow Road clash. Nine of Norwich's 11 games against the top-nine have produced Under 2.5 Goals 1.9310/11 and a repeat certainly appeals.
Curiously, all four of Brentford's battles against the breakaway top-four have concluded in 1-1 correct scores and the stalemate 3.505/2 should again be considered at a reasonable price. However, I'm going to combine the draw alongside Under 2.5 Goals for a 4.07 poke via the Same Game Multi, knowing both the 0-0 and 1-1 results are onside.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 112.00 pts
Returned: 118.05 pts