Match Preview | Norwich City vs. Cardiff City
The Bluebirds head to East Anglia this weekend to face league leaders Norwich City. Neil Harris’ men face the Canaries at Carrow Road on Saturday, with a 12:30pm kick-off.
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Harris pre-Norwich | Consistency is key
Bluebirds’ boss Neil Harris spoke to the press and media ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime clash, offering his opinion on our table-topping opponents.
“We’ll go to Norwich full of confidence. They are a top side with top players in their squad, as well as the manager. You can see that from their points tally.
“The next two fixtures are tough. It’s going to be a tough seven days for us, going to Norwich and then playing Brentford at home. They are two sides that fully I expect to be right up there in the top six.
“We’re showing that we can compete with the top sides, and we have to show that again in the next seven days. Hopefully we have one or two players back from injury or suspension.”
Opposition Focus: The boss
Daniel Farke became Norwich City manager in May 2017. The 44-year-old played as a striker in his native Germany, beginning his career with his local club, SV Steinhausen. Farke did not feature in the Bundesliga during his playing days, and spent the majority of his career in Germany’s lower tiers. He enjoyed three separate spells with SV Lippstadt, and also featured for Bonner SC and SV Meppen. His most successful season was the 2002/03 campaign, during which he scored 28 goals for Lippstadt. Farke retired from football in 2008, at the age of 32.
The German moved into coaching with his former side Lippstadt, taking the managerial role at the club in 2009. During his six-year spell at the Stadion am Waldschlößchen, Farke took the club from the sixth tier to the fourth division, winning the Westfalenliga Group 1 in 2011/12 and the Oberliga Westfalen the following season. In 2015, he succeeded David Wagner as manager of Borussia Dortmund II, coaching the team in the Regionalliga West for two seasons. Farke was hired by Norwich in 2017, finishing his first campaign at the club in 14th position. In his second season, the Canaries won the Championship title with 94 points, earning a return to the Premier League after a two-year absence. Farke could not maintain Norwich’s top flight status, as the club were relegated back in July after a single season in the Premier League, but remained at Carrow Road with the aim of bouncing back at the first attempt.
Opposition Focus: Season so far
Norwich have made an excellent start in their efforts to return to the top flight after last season’s relegation. The Canaries sit at the Championship summit with 40 points to their name, three clear of second place Bournemouth, six ahead of third place Watford, and ten in front of Middlesbrough, who are outside the Play-Offs. Farke’s men have been sitting pretty at the top of the table since November 21st, and have lost just three league matches this term.
Since suffering a 3-1 defeat to Luton Town on December 2nd, the Canaries have enjoyed a four-match winning run. Remarkably, all four of these fixtures have finished 2-1 in Norwich’s favour, with two home victories followed by consecutive wins on the road. Strugglers Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest were put to the sword at Carrow Road, before Farke’s side took three points from both Blackburn Rovers and Reading. In their midweek match against the Royals, goals from Emi Buendía and Teemu Pukki were enough to continue Norwich’s run at the Championship summit.
The Canaries lost just two of their Premier League mainstays following their relegation; Jamal Lewis signed for Newcastle United, whilst Ben Godfrey joined Everton. Farke added ten new faces to his first team squad, including three crucial loan signings. Young midfielder Oliver Skipp joined from Tottenham Hotspur, defender Ben Gibson signed from Burnley, and Spanish left-back Xavi Quintillà arrived from Villarreal. All three have featured heavily for Norwich this term, although Quintillá has missed the last few matches due to a hip injury.
Opposition Focus: Ones to watch
Teemu Pukki has shown his goalscoring ability at Championship level once again this season. The division’s 2018/19 Player of the Season netted 29 goals during Norwich’s title winning campaign that year, and also scored 11 goals in the Premier League last term. The 30-year-old is one away from equalling his league total for last season, having found the back of the net on 10 occasions already in 2020/21, whilst also providing one assist.
Emi Buendía impressed for the Canaries in the Premier League last season, and has continued to shine at Carrow Road this term. The 23-year-old only found the back of the net once in the top flight, but has improved his record in terms of both goals and assists during the current campaign. The Argentine has scored five Championship goals thus far, including four in his last six appearances, and recorded a club-high five assists.
Ben Gibson has steadily complemented Norwich’s style of play since arriving at the club in September. The Canaries have the highest average amount of possession per game, at 60.3%, and also boast the highest number of accurate passes per match, with an average of 456.7 passes. Gibson has contributed highly in this regard, and leads the way in terms of passes per match for any Championship player, with an average of 83.3. He is closely followed by defensive partner Grant Hanley, who has recorded an average of 70.2 passes per game, underpinning Norwich’s commitment to playing out from the back.