Norwich v Middlesbrough
Live on Sky Sports 1
The Canaries have been on a great run ever since Alex Neil took over at Carrow Road and came away with a very impressive 2-0 win from Leeds on Tuesday night – a trip which could have been a potential banana skin. Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans grabbed the goals as they stayed in second place in the table – above Watford on goal difference and just a point behind leaders Bournemouth.
They have suffered the odd blip at home (defeat to Wigan in midweek a couple of weeks ago being the most noticeable) but have generally been strong, seeing off Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich over the last month. They have scored 46 goals at Carrow Road this season – only Derby have managed more in front of their own fans.
Neil’s side have plenty of attacking threats in the likes of Lewis Grabban (back from injury), Cameron Jerome, Nathan Redmond and Gary Hooper and his main selection poser will be to decide who to start with in front of the cameras here.
Aitor Karanka’s side came through a big test on Tuesday, seeing off play-off contenders Wolves 2-1 to keep alive their hopes of automatic promotion, top-scorer Patrick Bamford (his 19th of the season) and Jelle Vossen on target. A win here would see them leapfrog their hosts, as well as Bournemouth and Watford, to go top of the table so there’s no shortage of incentive.
However, there is a big difference between their recent home and away form. Boro have scored just 22 goals away from home – less than everyone else down to 12th-placed Charlton – and won just one of the last six away from the Riverside, an admittedly impressive 1-0 victory at Derby. Since then, though, they were well-beaten at both Bournemouth and Watford, not managing a goal in either game – indeed they didn’t actually muster an effort on target on the south coast.
What’s kept in the race for a top two spot is their impressive home form – 11 wins from the last 12 games in front of their own fans. Karanka will need to decide if club captain Jonathan Woodgate can start a second game in 72 hours, though that decision may be taken out of his hands after the former England international hobbled off on Tuesday night.
With five wins on the trot, Norwich are currently the form side in the division. Those trips to Bolton and Leeds over the past week looked ones where they could have dropped points but such is the confidence they are playing with right now, they came through both tests unscathed. That fine run, combined with Boro’s iffy recent form away from home, makes the [2.14] about the home side the most attractive looking bet here.
Momentum is always key at this stage of the season and when a side gets on a winning run with the scent of promotion in their nostrils they can be very difficult to stop. The home crowd will be right behind Neil’s men here and a full house under lights should give them an extra edge too.
The visitors are available at [3.85] but looking at the way they were brushed aside at Bournemouth and Watford, barely landing a blow over the course of 180 minutes across the two matches it takes something of a leap of faith to back them here.
I’m sure we’ll see a better performance from Boro in front of the cameras but the home side are on a real roll and can deal something of a knockout blow to Karanka’s side, consigning them to one of the play-off spots and going top of the table, until Saturday afternoon at least.
Back Norwich to win at [2.14]
Staked: 125 pts
Returned: 124.12 pts
P/L: – 0.88 pts
*2pts best bet if stated
1pt other recommended bets