EFL Championship

Norwich v Leeds: Keep Canaries onside at Carrow Road

David Wagner - Norwich
Norwich have lost only four home games under David Wagner

The Championship play-offs kick-off on Sunday as Norwich and Leeds go head-to-head at Carrow Road. Betfair writer Mark O'Haire is backing the Canaries on the Asian Handicap.

Norwich 3.4012/5 ended the regular Championship season winless in their last three games, including a 1-0 reverse at Birmingham on the final day. Yet head coach David Wagner said, "The most important thing was that everyone stayed healthy. We had to manage our squad. It wasn't great but to be totally honest, who cares?"

Wagner was understandably criticised for those comments, but the Canaries clearly had their attention elsewhere with a top-six finish all but certain. Now real business begins for City, who come into the play-offs with only three defeats in their past 17 Championship fixtures (W9-D5-L3), with each reverse arriving away from Carrow Road.

Norwich have turned their Norfolk home into one of the most intimidating away venues in the second-tier, picking up 49 points at Carrow Road this season (W15-D4-L4) - you have to go back to Bonfire Night for the last time Wagner's side were turned over here. Since that loss to Blackburn, the Canaries have posted an exceptional W11-D5-L0 return as hosts.

However, the hosts will need to shuffle their pack in forward areas ahead of the play-offs. Ashley Barnes is set to miss both of the semi-final showdowns and the veteran striker's absence is a blow considering his impact in the number 10 role. Jonathan Rowe is available again and could feature alongside Gabriel Sara and Josh Sargent in an exciting front-three.

Match Preview

Norwich - Leeds
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Full Stats Powered by Opta

Since the four-team play-offs were introduced in the second-tier 35 years ago, there has never been a points difference between two teams as large as the 17 that separated Leeds 2.285/4 and Norwich this year. The Whites' end-of-season 91-point haul would also have seen the Yorkshire giants win automatic promotion in four of the past six Championship seasons.

Nevertheless, Leeds fans have been concerned by recent performances with Daniel Farke's men slipping to back-to-back Elland Road defeats, as well as suffering a 4-0 shellacking at QPR on the penultimate round of the regular campaign. It means the Whites arrive with a solitary success across their last five fixtures (W1-D1-L3) and only two triumphs in eight.

In those eight encounters, Leeds have shipped 16 goals - over a third of their seasonal total - and coincided with the group enduring a lean spell in front of goal. Farke's outfit fired blanks in three of their most recent five fixtures with the German also copping criticism for his lack of tactical nous, and his generally predictable approach and team selection.

Leeds are sweating on the fitness of both Patrick Bamford and Daniel James coming into the weekend - both forwards are considered doubtful, but with Willy Gnonto, Joel Piroe, Crysencio Summerville and Georginio Rutter in the ranks, Farke is still well-stocked with attacking options ahead of the trip to Carrow Road.

Canaries capable of upsetting the odds

Matches between Norwich and Leeds were tight affairs this season - Leeds came out on top on both occasions, but each success was by the odd goal, with the Canaries putting in creditable efforts in each contest. With Norwich arguably improving since the duos last clash in January, I'm prepared to support the hosts ahead of Sunday's early kick-off.

Norwich can be backed at 1.768/11 with a +0.5 Asian Handicap start, a selection that would have paid-out in all bar four of the team's regular season showdowns at Carrow Road. The same selection opposing Leeds in away fixtures provided profit in 12 of 23 tussles, including four of their most recent six away days, as well as six of eight dates across all venues.

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