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Norwich v Sunderland preview: Canaries to maintain top-six push

Two of the challengers in a tightly congested Championship play-off race face off on Sunday as they look to lay their own claims on a top-six spot.

In-form Canaries look dangerous

What:Norwich v Sunderland
WhereCarrow Road, Norwich
When12:00, Sunday 12th March 2023
How to watchSky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football
OddsNorwich 5/6, Draw 11/4, Sunderland 16/5

After dispensing with the services of Dean Smith and replacing him with David Wagner in January, Norwich have improved their form and look likely to have a real say in the Championship play-off race.

The Canaries have won six, drawn one and lost two of Wagner’s nine league games in charge and one of those defeats came to runaway leaders Burnley so their recent form has been among the best of any side in the division, justifying their decision to hire the German.

Coming into the weekend’s games, Norwich sat just inside the play-off places but with just nine points separating third and tenth, they will know that they can take nothing for granted in the typically competitive race for promotion to the Premier League.

Downturn at exactly the wrong time for Black Cats

In sharp contrast with the recent form of Norwich, Sunderland have suffered a poor run of form just as the play-off race starts to heat up, losing three and drawing one of their last four games.

The most recent of those was a humiliating 5-1 defeat to former manager Alex Neil’s Stoke side and the Black Cats need a quick turnaround in their fortunes if they are to play a part in the race for a top-six spot.

Coming into the weekend’s games, Tony Mowbray’s side sat six points off their opponents here Norwich in sixth place and with 11 games of the season left, they need to bridge that sooner rather than later if they are to have a chance of back-to-back promotions to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2016/17.

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High-scoring affair likely

One thing that both of these sides have in common is their high-scoring nature. Coming into this weekend’s games, only the top three had netted more than Norwich’s 51 goals in 35 games and Sunderland were just a goal behind them.

However a long-term injury to key striker Ross Stewart has been a big blow for the Mackems’ goalscoring abilities, the Scotsman has 10 goals and three assists in just 11 starts this season but a torn achilles will keep him out of the rest of the campaign.

Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo has netted eight times but Mowbray’s men do miss Stewart’s presence up top.

Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki have been the main goal threat for Norwich this season, netting 21 times between them, but the Canaries have had contributions from a wide range of players, with 17 different players finding the net for them this season.

The 10/11 about over 2.5 goals, which has landed in four of Sunderland’s last six away games, may be of interest.

Hard to trust Black Cats in current form

While Sunderland have undoubtedly done well for a newly promoted side this season, their squad has been hit hard by injuries and that has started to be reflected in their results.

As a result, it is hard to have any faith in them getting anything from this game against Norwich given their capitulation to Stoke last time out.

These are two of the highest-scoring sides in the second tier and Sunderland came into this weekend’s games with the worst defensive record in the top half, having conceded 43 times in 35 games.

Given the contrasting recent form of these two teams, the 5/6 about a Norwich win looks more than fair, particularly as Sunderland have won just one of their last five away games in all competitions.

The Canaries on the other hand are looking for their fourth home win in a row and could well pick it up against an out of form and injury-hit Black Cats outfit.

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