Norwich v Wolves: Canaries can defy the odds again
Andrew Atherley says the hosts can build on last week's draw at Leicester with another positive result...
Norwich v Wolves Saturday 21 December, 15:00
Norwich achieved one of the upsets of last weekend with their 1-1 draw at second-placed Leicester, ending the hosts' eight-match winning run, and that was another sign of recent brighter form in their battle to avoid immediate relegation back to the Championship.
The Canaries remain in the drop zone in 19th place, three points from safety, but they have taken something from three of their last five matches.
Top scorer Teemu Pukki continued his resurgent form with the first-half goal at Leicester and then played the second half with a badly damaged toe. It turned out not to be broken but has been heavily bruised and swollen, leaving some doubt over his participation in this match.
That is just the latest worry for Daniel Farke, whose squad has been hit hard by injuries all season. Timm Klose, Josip Drmic and Grant Hanley all remain sidelined, but Farke has more options now. He could go for some rotation in midfield, with Onel Hernandez and Mario Vrancic possibles for a starting place instead of Todd Cantwell or Tom Trybull.
Unbeaten run ended
Wolves had their 11-match unbeaten run in the Premier League snapped by Tottenham last Sunday in a 2-1 home defeat but Jan Vertonghen's 90th-minute winner was harsh on the hosts, who were the better side for long spells.
That result pushed Wolves down the table to eighth place, with Tottenham leapfrogging them into fifth, but they are still in the thick of a congested battle for European qualification with just three points separating fifth to ninth.
Their form has also been strong in the Europa League, with four wins and a draw from their last five group matches, and they have a break now until facing Espanyol in the last 32 in February.
Nuno Espirito Santo likes to play a settled side and he could well opt for the same line-up for the fourth Premier League match in a row.
Wolves a short-priced risk
Norwich have lost to fellow strugglers Watford, Southampton, Aston Villa and West Ham but have produced good performances against better teams, especially at home with their 3-2 win over Manchester City and 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
A key factor in recent weeks has been the easing of their injury list. Christoph Zimmermann, having played only one of the first 12 matches, has been at the heart of a settled defence since Norwich's upturn started with a 2-0 win at Everton and that stronger platform has given the Canaries more opportunity to build attacks, leading to Pukki's return to scoring form.
Wolves have done incredibly well to challenge for a top-six place in the midst of their arduous Europa League campaign and they will be hoping to kick on again while the focus is on domestic competition for the next couple of months.
This has been the first time this season that Nuno has had his Wolves squad for a whole week of training leading up to a Premier League match, having otherwise had to cope with midweek matches (mainly in the Europa League) or international breaks.
Wolves' 11-match unbeaten run featured more draws (six) than wins, however, and they conceded in eight of those games, which does not instil great confidence that they can deliver a win here at around even-money.
Norwich look capable of getting a result, as long as Pukki is fit to play, and the home win is not out of the question at3.90. With respect to Wolves' low number of defeats, however, the recommended bet is Norwich off 0 on the Asian handicap at [2.95].
Look for both teams to score
Wolves, with their preponderance of 1-1 draws (seven), rank low for games with under 2.5 goals (35%) but they are joint-top for both teams to score on 71%, level with Liverpool and Tottenham.
Both teams to score might be the best way to back goals in Wolves matches and that approach would be supported by Norwich's figures, with only one of their eight home games having featured a blank for either side (that was in Watford's 2-0 win).
Wolves have only won two of their 17 away Premier League games against teams starting the day in the relegation zone (D4 L11), picking up just four points in their four games of this kind since the start of last season (W1 D1 L2). Norwich are3.90 to win.