Sunderland vs Norwich predictions: Momentum with the Canaries
Two teams who were recently separated by two divisions meet at the Stadium of Light and, for now, last season’s League One play-off winners get to look down on a club who recently mixed it with the Premier League elite.
Norwich landed heavily as they dropped from the top tier, taking just one point from their first three games to make casual observers mull the possibility that Dean Smith’s men were in for a more challenging season than expected.
However, hardened Canaries fans have seen it all before – their club had made poor starts to their last two Championship campaigns but had still won the title on both occasions.
And sure enough, Norwich quickly rectified the situation by claiming victories over Huddersfield and Millwall as they look to emulate their promotion performances of 2018-19 and 2020-21.
A third successive win this weekend would see Norwich rise from rock-bottom to the top two in the space of two weeks, but the fifth-placed Black Cats will be in no mood to watch the Canaries fly by as they seek to consolidate their position back in the second tier.
Norwich right-back Sam Byram made his first appearance of the season in the midweek Carabao Cup defeat to Bournemouth and was joined by striker Adam Idah, who made a goalscoring return in his first appearance since February.
However, manager Dean Smith will still be without midfielder Jacob Sorensen, defender Sam McCallum and left-back Dimitris Giannoulis, who is at least six weeks away from a return.
Loanee defensive midfielder Isaac Hayden remains absent as he recovers from knee surgery and defender Andrew Omobamidele faces a late fitness test after suffering an ankle injury against Millwall last week.
Sunderland defender Daniel Ballard fractured his foot against QPR a fortnight ago and will be out for a couple of months, while Carl Winchester could also be out for a spell with a back problem.
Leon Dajaku may again miss out for the Black Cats as he nurses a thigh strain, but Dan Neil returns from a one-match suspension.
This is Norwich’s first game against Sunderland in more than four years, but none of the last four meetings have ended in success for the home team – three have ended in away wins, with the visiting side scoring three goals on each occasion.
Smith was bemoaning his team’s misfortune in the early matches of the season, and the Norwich manager had good reason to. The Canaries have bossed possession in all five Championship outings this season – commanding over two-thirds of the play in three of those matches – and have produced more shots than their opponents in every game, too.
It has not even been close on most occasions, either, with Norwich claiming 70% possession against Hull and hitting 12 shots on target to the Tigers’ four but still losing 2-1. Against Cardiff, they took twice as many shots as their hosts but somehow lost 1-0, while the 1-1 draw against Wigan saw Norwich claim 70% possession and take a whopping 22 shots to Wigan’s six.
Sometimes managers blame bad luck without justification, but Smith was absolutely right – his team deserved far more than just one point from their opening three performances.
Norwich’s early season wobble always seemed it would be short-lived given the balance of play in their early displays. True, the Canaries were slightly slow off the mark in their opener, but Smith’s men still deserved at least a draw in Cardiff, and since then, Norwich have dominated matches but simply failed to get the breaks.
A corner has been turned, however. Smith has key men returning to fitness, and with confidence seeping back into his squad, it will surely be only a matter of time until the Canaries again start to look like title favourites.
Sunderland’s start has been solid and entirely respectable, but their fifth-placed position owes more to a kind set of fixtures than to their own quality.
Alex Neil’s newly promoted hosts are strong enough to continue picking up points in games where opponents are not quite at it – as was the case in Sunderland’s commendable single-goal victories over Bristol City and Stoke – and are unlikely to get shown up on too many occasions.
However, they cannot match the quality of the best teams in the division, and, slightly later than expected, Norwich are starting to show that they are within that bracket.