Pre-match Analysis: Norwich City vs
Leeds United
(Credit Shaun Botterill)

In what may be the most crucial encounter of them all between these two clubs, Norwich City and Leeds United prepare for the 60th edition of this fixture, in a game that will take place on Sunday 31st October, 14:00.

Currently, both clubs occupy a position within the bottom four of the Premier League standings. Whilst pressure begins to mount on both managers, five points separate the two sides in what will be regarded as a must-win fixture for both clubs.

In a game that could help lift The Canaries away from the bottom spot in the standings, a defeat for Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds could see the Yorkshire club drop into the relegation zone.

Norwich City

Following a lacklustre and underwhelming performance against Chelsea last weekend, The Canaries suffered a heavy 7-0 defeat at the hands of Thomas Tuchel’s men.

The result further raised questions of Daniel Farke's capabilities at this level to support the club in its pursuit to avoid the drop this season. As a result, many have called for one of Eddie Howe, Lucien Favre, or club-legend Russell Martin to replace the German.

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Whilst the managerial debate remains contentious, performances must improve if the club has any real ambition of avoiding a third relegation to the Championship in the last seven years.

In a start to the season where Norwich have picked up just two points from their opening nine games, a major concern comes in way of goals being scored and in turn, conceded. Currently, the club has just two goals to its name, with one of them coming from the penalty spot. Going the other way and the club have the leakiest defence in the league, conceding 23 goals.

Norwich’s Tactical Approach

Looking at the club’s tactical approach, Farke has deployed a 5-3-2 formation for much of the season to date. In doing so, his men have earned back-to-back 0-0’s against Burnley and Brighton while remaining compact and reassured in defence, becoming difficult to break down, as the club managed to pick up its first points of the season.

The problem with this formation is that it often restricts The Canaries when attacking. As highlighted against Chelsea, once the club concedes the first goal of the game, it becomes difficult to build the necessary momentum to provide a response, meaning that pressure continues to be built against them.

A formation that offers width from the wing-backs in Brandon Williams/ Dimitris Giannoulis or Max Aarons, meaning that the club’s more creative attacking players (such as: Christos Tzolis, Milot Rashica, and Todd Cantwell) fail to find space within the starting XI. Whilst Cantwell has been criticised for his recent attitude at the club, the tactical approach has since failed to cater to the attacking abilities of Tzolis and Rashica.

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As a result, this style of play has a detrimental impact on the attacking efforts of the side. Being called upon from the bench, the players have had to quickly adapt to the speed and momentum of each given match, whilst trying to provide a different edge to the side’s attack.

It is worth noting that this defensive approach differs from anything that Farke has utilised previously within his career at the club. Previously, the German worked with a 4-2-3-1, in a time where Emi Buendia was still at the club, building fluent chemistry in an attack with Cantwell and striker Teemu Pukki.

Leeds United

The expectation for three points will be rife amongst the Leeds fans, especially given the abysmal start made by Farke's Norwich. However, added pressure may be added given that of the current 59 games played between these two sides, Leeds have come out on top 23 times, compared to Norwich's 20. 

The Elland Road-based club has had an underwhelming start to the campaign, if we are comparing it to that of last season.

In their second season back in England's top flight, the club finished the last campaign in ninth position - recording an impressive 59 points during the first season in the Premier League for 16 years. The campaign was made all the more remarkable given that Bielsa's men won 18 of their 38 games in the league, and finished two points below Arsenal. 

Starting with just one win to their name, The Whites began the season with a 5-1 defeat away to Manchester United, before picking up single points in draws to Burnley, Newcastle, Everton, and Wolves – all of which the side would have hoped to have won.  

Their downwards in form come at the same time as the injury to prolific striker Patrick Bamford, a former Canary-loanee who featured in every Premier League game last season, whilst contributing with 17 league goals.

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Despite playing in the first five games of the season, the 28-year-old has since suffered from an ankle injury that is set to keep him out until the start of November. In doing so, Leeds suffers without a key focal point within their attack, and as a result, have had to rely on the creative and technically gifted Brazilian winger Raphinha – who himself has been injury-prone to begin the new campaign.

Who to look out for?

Raphinha is expected to return for the weekend visitors to Carrow Road, despite being doubtful for the fixture with an ankle injury, the 24-year-old is expected to make the trip to Norfolk.

Additionally, exciting young prospect Joe Gelhardt will be hoping to build on his impressive display – having won the crucial 94’ minute penalty to salvage a point when welcoming Wolverhampton Wanderers to Elland Road last weekend. The attacking midfielder showcased his ability and confidence when driving with the ball at his feet, proving that the Premier League debutant could be a potential dangerman to Norwich’s defence in this all-important game.

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With all eyes on Carrow Road this Sunday, the home sides quality will be tested when facing the French shot-stopper in Illan Meslier. Despite conceding 16 goals in the opening nine fixtures, the French youth international has made 34 saves in that period, following on from an impressive debut season in England’s topflight, where he kept 11 clean sheets from his 35 appearances for the Yorkshire side.

Last Five Meeting's:

2nd February 2019: Leeds United 1-3 Norwich City

25th August 2018: Norwich City 0-3 Leeds United

28th April 2018: Norwich City 2-1 Leeds United

16th December 2017: Leeds United 1-0 Norwich City

29th April 2017: Leeds United 3-3 Norwich City