The FourFourTwo Preview: Norwich vs Sunderland
Relegation six pointer, except a win is actually only worth three.
There’s a reason you’re not excited about this game. It’s going to be dire (says FFT hoping this will prompt the football gods to conjure a classic to punish our cynicism). If it’s left down to the players, it won’t be. The Canaries share the Premier League’s worst scoring record at home – 13 goals – with Saturday’s opponents and Crystal Palace. If you’re a Norwich fan this blow is softened by a miserly defence – just 12 goals conceded at home – bettered only by Everton, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
- So'ton 4-2 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Aston Villa 4-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 Spurs (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 Norwich (Prem)
- S'land 0-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 3-0 S'land (FAC)
- Man City 3-1 S'land (LC)
- Arsenal 4-1 S'land (Prem)
- S'land 1-0 So'ton (FAC)
As a neutral this isn’t great news, especially when you know Sunderland are visiting Carrow Road. Considering their league position the Black Cats have a respectable scoring record away from home (13), but to call them a deadly counter-attacking force would be ‘lazy journalism’. In fact, it would be utter nonsense.
The home side are without a win in three. They claimed their last victory towards the end of February with a 1-0 victory over Spurs at home. They have developed a knack of getting a result when they need one most, but with only eight games left Chris Hughton’s side can’t afford to leave it until next week, they need to deliver now.
Hughton acts like a man on a diet of sedatives and marijuana (he’s not, we’re just making a cheap joke about his relaxed demeanour), but he knows that a loss to Sunderland would sink them further into the Championship quicksand. Right now they’re four points clear of 18th-placed Sunderland, but the Black Cats have three games in hand and, despite losing the League Cup final and being knocked out of the FA Cup, their form in the league has given them hope for survival.
Gus Poyet’s men need to collect points on the road in Norfolk, because their run-in includes trips to Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City, Chelsea and United. Yikes. This fixture will bring up the rear on the Match of the Day playlist, but come the end of the season the result could have a bearing on who retains their Premier League status.
Norwich duo Michael Turner and Jonas Gutierrez continued they injury rehabilitation with 45 minutes for the club’s under-21s on Tuesday afternoon. Scottish striker Steven Fletcher is expected to be out for a few weeks after picking up an ankle injury during Sunderland’s goalless draw with Crystal Palace.
Player to watch: Robert Snodgrass (Norwich)
Between them, Norwich’s stable of strikers Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper, Johan Elmander, Luciano Becchio and Josh Murphy have played 94 games. In that time they’ve managed 11 goals (Hooper is responsible for seven of those). That’s a goal every eight-and-a-half games. In the absence of a prolific striker, Scottish midfielder Snodgrass has weighed in with a few goals. The former Leeds player scored his third goal in the last six Premier League games at Southampton last Saturday. His second strike during this run was the winner against Spurs – a game in which he had 5 attempts on goal – more than any other player.
He was Norwich’s most dangerous player in the final third, completing 18 of 24 passes in the attacking third, bettered only by Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele. The Scotsman did his work off the ball as well, registering 9 ball recoveries on the day – only Jan Vertonghen managed more (11). Snodgrass also drew a trio of fouls and won 3 tackles. He’s capable of producing a moment of individual brilliance, which in a potentially tight and tense game could be the difference between winning and losing, between staying up and going down.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- S'land 0-0 Norwich (Prem, Dec 13)
- S'land 1-1 Norwich (Prem, Mar 13)
- Norwich 2-1 S'land (Prem, Dec 12)
- S'land 3-0 Norwich (Prem, Feb 12)
- Norwich 2-1 S'land (Prem, Sep 11)
Under pressure Hughton believes there’s only one way the club is going to survive this relegation dogfight – by sticking together.
“It is only ourselves who can get us out of this and we have to do that very quickly. You have to remain focused, retain that belief but there is no doubt we are in a difficult position,” he said.
“We have been very good at home for the most part and we need everybody pushing in the right direction now.” If Norwich can collect points from their next four games against relegation rivals – Sunderland, Swansea, West Brom and Fulham – they’ve got a chance.
Poyet believes five wins from Sunderland’s last 11 games will save his team from the drop. If they achieve this target they’ll reach 40 points, a point more than they achieved last season, which was enough to preserve their Premier League status. “Games are starting to run down, but we should still have more than enough to get out of the bottom three,” said the Uruguayan. “We are out of the cups, so we have no distractions and we can concentrate on the one thing that we need to do now – which is winning Premier League games.”
Facts and figures
- Norwich have won this fixture 2-1 in each of the past 2 seasons.
- Norwich’s last 8 home matches have been level at half-time with the last 6 all goalless.
- 9 of Norwich’s last 14 home games have had fewer than 2 goals.
- 4 of Sunderland’s last 9 matches (home or away) against bottom-half teams have finished goalless, while 8 of the last 10 have had fewer than 3 goals.
Only Crystal Palace have scored fewer goals than these two so don’t expect to see an afternoon of net-bulging action. Scrappy 1-1 draw.