Championship Friday – Norwich City v Birmingham City

Friday night Championship Football returns, and this one should be a great matchup between two clubs that are fighting for promotion, either automatically or through the playoff.

Norwich City, third in the league table (though not as high in our current Power Rankings), will welcome Birmingham City (currently 8th in the league) to Carrow Road. Norwich is looking to snap its current four-match winless streak (0-3-1), while Birmingham City is trying to close its four point gap to the last playoff spot.

Let’s take a look at the clubs:

The Records

As mentioned, Norwich City is third in the league table, tied with second place Sheffield United with 50 points (but behind by four goals in goal differential). Their 14-8-5 record gives them the third-most wins in the league. They are four points off the lead of Leeds United, and three points ahead of 4th place West Bromwich Albion, and with the other three top four clubs playing clubs currently 13th, 15th, and  23rd in the league, it will be important for the Canaries to pick up all three points at home in this one to keep pace.

Birmingham City has turned things around after falling to 20th after they opened the season on an eight-match winless streak (0-6-2), currently sitting in 8th place with a 9-12-6 record. They are the lead of four clubs with 39 points, leading based on goal differential  (+9) over Nottingham Forest (+8), Hull City (+6), and Queens Park Rangers (-2). They trail Derby County by four points for the final playoff spot, so no chance of catching them this week, but I’m sure they’d like to remain in the lead of the little clump they are in.

The Previous Match-Up

These clubs previously met in the first match of the season, which resulted in a 2-2 draw in front of the Birmingham City faithfull at St Andrew’s. The club splayed to a 0-0 draw at halftime, and the Blues of Birmingham City opened scoring with a goal by Jacques Maghoma in the 56th minute. They managed to hold the lead for nearly 30 minutes of game time, before Onel Hernzandez evened it up for the visitors with a goal in the 83rd.

A draw seemed to be in the cards from that point, until Viv-Solomon-Otabor scored just before the end of regular time, seemingly giving Birmingham City the victory to open the season. However, Norwich City was able to grab a point back with another goal from Hernandez deep in stoppage time (90+4′), allowing the Canaries to salvage a point that looked all but lost four minutes prior.

Home and Away Results

As the road club in this one, Birmingham City is at a disadvantage, though they haven’t exactly been terrible away from the friendly confines of St Andrew’s. A 4-5-4 record, with a +1 goal differential, has allowed them to not fall too far behind the rest of the league. They do score less on the road (as most teams do), averaging only 1.31 goals per match, while surrendering 1.23 goals, so the margin of error is definitely thin. In their last five on the road, they’ve gone 2-2-1, which has helped them in their slight move up the table.

Norwich City actually plays better away from home, at least per goal differential (+10 on the road vs +4 at Carrow Road), but they’ve accumulated 25 points both home and away. The home record is 8-1-4, however, so they are better at converting matches to victories at home than on the road. They average a solid 2 goals per match at home, while surrendering 1.69, and are 3-1-1 in their last five in front of the home fans.

Scorers and Defense, Oh My!

The Canaries are led offensively by Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, who has scored 15 of their 49 goals on the season, one goal behind the league lead shared by Tammy Abraham and Billy Sharp. In net, Tim Krul has eight clean sheets on the season, with half coming at home, though only two in his last 10 matches. The club has surrendered the most goals of any club currently in playoff position, tied with West Brom’s 35.

Birmingham is led by Che Adams with 13 goals of his own, with Lukas Jutkiewicz adding 10 to score the majority of the clubs’ 39 goals on the season. Lee Camp has been brilliant at times in the Birmingham goal, holding opponents scoreless in nine matches this season, with five of those clean sheets occurring in the past 10 matches. Overall, the Blues defense has surrendered fewer goals than Norwich City, with only 30 shots finding the back of the net thus far.

How I See It

Norwich has struggled as late, but it’s not like they’ve been shut out, accumulating three points and staying in the top three of the league. Birmingham City, on the other hand, had been slowly climbing up the table on the strength of a five-match unbeaten streak (3-2-0), until they lost last week to 5th-place Middlesborugh.

I think the home pitch will help out Norwich in this one, though it will probably be close. The Canaries come out on top and walk away with the full three points for the first time in three weeks.

My prediction: Norwich City 2 – 1 Birmingham City
Actual result: Norwich City 3-1 Brimingham City

Until next time…

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