English League Cup, 1st round. Betting Tips | Today’s Best Bets: This is a Championship match. As we tipped off in this column, Norwich were to have problems at home to Wigan on Saturday, where in the end it was a goal from Aarons midway through the second half that salvaged a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road, but with it at least recorded the first of the season point. Purely in terms of the game, it was a step in the right direction, and the team should strictly have decided the match. Opened with a 0-1 loss away to Cardiff, and here they were downright weak.
Once again proved to be completely without a chance in the Premier League last season, and it is a bit of a negative trend that will now be reversed by Dean Smith, who also has to endure being considered one of the by far biggest favourites. Smith took over the job in mid-November after Daniel Farke was sacked, but apart from a couple of good results at the start, most things went wrong after the change of manager, and Smith actually did a worse job than his predecessor.
The squad is actually quite similar to the one that took the team up from the Championship in 2020/21, which basically bodes well. So nothing drastic has happened on the transfer front, most of the squad has been accepted, while Gabriel Sara (Sao Paulo) must be considered the most interesting of the few names that have come in. The big challenge probably lies in how to reverse the development.
There are a number of players who have had their self-confidence completely crushed after the deplorable season in the Premier League, and as we have seen many times before, there is no automaticity in that it loosens immediately after relegation. It will be a challenge for Smith to turn morale around, especially as things really only went downhill under his leadership towards the end of last season, even after relegation was all but sealed. Should things turn around from the start, I absolutely believe that Norwich can be counted on in the fight for promotion, but if, on the other hand, it stumbles initially, it is natural to believe that there will be unrest among both fans and the board, and then the road short to a turbulent season. A very solid first team and a strong squad means that Norwich is initially proclaimed as one of the big promotion favourites. Personally, we have more doubts, and quickly believe that it may be tougher than many think to reverse the trend.
Birmingham have made a great start to the season, with four points after meetings with Luton and Huddersfield. Created very little away to Luton in the opening round, but the 0-0 draw at Kenilworth Road was just as strong, and on Friday it unraveled when Hogan and Placheta secured a 2-1 win at home to out-of-form Huddersfield. Uplifting, considering how messy the run-up has been. Constant unrest around ownership continues to be disruptive, and Lee Bowyer left the club late this summer, just as they were about to start the run-up. The replacement, John Eustace (former assistant coach for Ireland and QPR, as well as manager for Kidderminster) has therefore had very little time with the team. As if that wasn’t a bad enough starting point, you have also had to see several key pieces disappear.
Not good for a team that previously struggled to keep up in the Championship. Namely finished in 20th place last season, with 10 points further down to relegation. Brought in John Ruddy (Wolves), Przemyslaw Placheta (Norwich) and Auston Trusty (Arsenal), while Ivan Sunjic (Hertha) is among the players who have left the club. It should be said that the club is in the process of bringing out several exciting talents from its own academy, who can possibly help lift the team a little if 2-3 of the most exciting names take a step forward this season. It’s still thin overall, and we think several of the teams that will probably fight in the same tier seem better prepared than Birmingham, and as I said, that doesn’t bode well when you know how much the team struggled last season. Is considered in advance as one of the biggest relegation favourites.
There is a lot going on for the home team, and we would not be surprised if Birmingham were able to create problems for the hosts. In any case, should be more open than the odds suggest. 1X2: 2
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