David Freezer: Canaries mixing it with Europe's best
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City are mixing it with some of the best clubs in Europe after their consistently strong start to the season.
With an impressive haul of 53 points from 25 Championship matches the Canaries are averaging 2.12 points per game. In England, only Premier League leaders Manchester City (2.16) currently have a better average.
In fact, only three other teams in the country are averaging that magic mark of two points per game, which will almost guarantee a successful campaign at any level. Manchester United are on exactly two in the top flight and League One promotion chasers Lincoln City (2.09) and Doncaster Rovers (2) are also managing that average.
City’s impressive total also compares favourably across the traditional ‘big five’ countries though, as judged by the Uefa Coefficient, which ranks Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France as the top countries.
Across the top and second tiers of those countries, just seven clubs are currently accumulating points at a better rate than Norwich – led by La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid (2.6) and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich (2.3).
Also currently ahead of the Canaries are Serie A leaders AC Milan (2.26) and their rivals Inter Milan (2.16), which ties with Manchester City, as well as French rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Lille (both 2.14).
It’s esteemed company to keep, with only eight fellow second-tier teams among the 20 clubs to be averaging two points per game in the top two tiers of the ‘big five’ - the closest to the Canaries being Troyes of Ligue Deux in France (2.1).
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With any potential distractions of an FA Cup run put to bed by a disjointed display at Barnsley last weekend, Daniel Farke and his players can truly focus on that mantra of taking one game at a time. It’s boring but it’s true.
Good teams can shake off the disappointing days which inevitably arrive during the course of a long campaign. Not that any tears were shed about the 1-0 defeat at Oakwell, given the injury issues which have already been so prevalent this season.
City have found a balance which has allowed them to be strong defensively while still retaining an attractive attacking style, an approach which has allowed them to keep edging games and stockpiling those valuable points during this most congested, unprecedented and strange season.
Middlesbrough this lunchtime represent the first of 21 teams that will be desperate to throw a spanner in the works for the leaders, while remaining wary of the undoubted quality and forward threat the Canaries possess after their Premier League tour of duty.
Boro also represent a wounded animal in more ways than one, after a shock 3-0 home defeat to Paul Warne’s spirited Rotherham on Wednesday night – while City have had all week to focus on training and preparation.
That was a third defeat in four games, failing to score in any of those defeats, as their play-off hopes have suffered a setback. On Wednesday they were without star central defender Dael Fry, who was so impressive when Norwich edged a 1-0 win at the Riverside in November – when Marcus Tavernier’s penalty was bizarrely ruled out to leave Neil Warnock perplexed.
Fry suffered a nasty injury as Boro lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn in the league last Sunday, as a high boot left Warnock to say “he’s a millimetre from losing an eyeball” following the game, after the defender had tried to win a header – leaving him with stitches and blurred vision in his right eye.
Norwich claimed top spot at the Riverside in November and have kept hold of it throughout the two months since that narrow success, despite a host of injury and Covid-19 problems.
With Watford, Brentford and Swansea all drawing in midweek to waste chances to cut the gap, another three points today would feel like a particularly important consolidation of the lead for City.
After eight wins in their last 10 league games and six wins and one draw from their last seven Carrow Road matches, mixed with the noticeable increase in competition for places amongst a much healthier squad, the leaders’ confidence should be sky-high.
Points per game
1 Atletico Madrid – 2.6
2 Bayern Munich – 2.3
3 AC Milan – 2.26
4= Manchester City – 2.16
4= Inter Milan – 2.16
6= Paris Saint-Germain – 2.14
6= Lille – 2.14
8 Norwich City – 2.12
9 Real Madrid – 2.11
10= Hamburg – 2.1
10= Troyes – 2.1
- Clubs in top two tiers of England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, prior to Lyon (2.05) playing last night.