Following defeat at home to Chelsea on Boxing Day, Norwich face another tough test when they tackle Man City at Carrow Road on Saturday (3pm GMT).
The Canaries have enjoyed a good first half of the season and are currently 11th in the table with 25 points from six wins, seven draws and six defeats.
Chris Hughton’s side had been in the midst of a 10-match unbeaten run prior to last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away to West Brom, a result that was followed by the narrow 1-0 loss at home to Chelsea.
Norwich worked hard and briefly threatened on a couple of counter-attacks but were otherwise competently shackled by a well organised Chelsea side who were deserving of the three points despite the slender margin of victory.
It was only Norwich’s second home defeat of the season and also only the second time they have failed to score at Carrow Road. They have won five in a row at home prior to that loss – a run that included victories over both Arsenal and Manchester United.
The key to Norwich’s good form has been a strong defence. They conceded 17 times in their first seven matches of the season (2.43 per match, on average) but improved immensely following the arrivals of Sebastian Bassong and combative defensive midfielder Alexander Tettey, conceding just 11 in the subsequent 12 matches (0.92 per match).
Hughton has fashioned a solid, dependable side who may not be as tactically flexible or offensively minded as they were under Paul Lambert last season, but are nevertheless capable of keeping things tight and making a good match of it against any team in the league.
Norwich are, in fact, on course to finish with a better points total than last season provided they continue to accumulate points at their current rate throughout the second half of the campaign.
The same cannot be said of their visitors on Saturday, who are currently struggling to replicate the excellent form that took them to last season’s league title.
Following their defeat to Sunderland on Boxing Day, Manchester City are currently on course to finish with a full nine points less than last season. They need to improve quickly if they are to keep pace with local rivals United at the top of the table.
City have accumulated 39 points from 11 victories, six draws and two defeats. It is a haul that places them second in the table, some seven points behind United and in danger of being caught by third-placed Chelsea.
Manager Roberto Mancini was incensed with the match officials following the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland. He may have been better placed saving his ire for goalkeeper Joe Hart, whose poor positioning allowed former City player Adam Johnson to squeeze in a long-range shot at the near post for the solitary goal of the match.
City dominated possession, but created no more than two or three truly presentable chances and found the Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet equal to the resulting efforts on goal. It was the third time this season they have failed to score, strengthening the belief that they are not the same attacking force as last season.
City were ruthless at times last season, scoring 93 goals over the course of the campaign at a rate of 2.45 per match, including 5-1 and 6-1 victories over Norwich. This season, however, they are scoring a rate of 1.79 per match, which would result in them scoring a full 25 less goals over course of the entire season.
Opponents are clearly treating City with greater respect than last season, contracting the space between midfield and defence to prevent the likes of Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Sergio Aguero having space in which to weave their magic. But there also appears to be less verve to the Citizens’ attack: less of the powerful, quick, incisive play that was so central to their title success.
City have the second-best defensive record in the division, with just 16 conceded to date and are still picking up points at a rate that would be very much acceptable to the large majority of Premier League teams.
However, they are in danger of ceding an irreversible advantage to United at the top of the table unless they can start scoring more goals and picking up more points sooner rather than later.
Norwich v Manchester City Betting Tips
Norwich have a good home record this season and always make a good match of it at Carrow Road, staying compact out of possession and attacking sensibly when opportunities present themselves.
City have struggled against teams who have constricted the space between the lines in the final third and despite scoring 11 times against Norwich in the two fixtures between the sides last season will find the going much tougher this time around.
We foresee a low scoring match, with Norwich doing enough to pick up at least a point.