Two teams seemingly heading in different directions face off in the first Premier League weekend of 2013 when struggling Newcastle United travel to Carrow Road to play Norwich City.
While the Canaries needed an FA Cup win at local rivals Peterborough United to snap a four-game losing streak, they currently sit 12th and look set to at least post another comfortable midtable season.
By contrast, last season’s surprise Europa League qualifiers Newcastle have not only been bumped out the cup by Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion, but also sit precariously two points above the relegation zone in 15th place.
The home side start as favourites to continue their general upward trend with another win at 23/20, while Newcastle are 11/5 to pick up a first away victory of the campaign and 12/5 to bring their run of six straight defeats on the road to an end with a draw.
Much of Newcastle’s problems of late have been down to a very leaky defence, shipping 15 goals in the four games since a 1-0 home win over QPR.
It seems improbable Alan Pardew will have patched up his backline enough that the Canaries won’t score at 19/100 or even strike in both halves at 39/20.
Former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton will surely fire up his players to go for it from the off against the side that unfairly sacked him two seasons ago and Norwich are 5/4 to get a first-half opener.
Though Hughton would probably take a score from any source, he’d ideally like striker Grant Holt to break his six-game barren run with the first goal at 11/2, assuming the big target man is fit again after a hamstring injury.
Yet for all Newcastle’s openness at the back, they remain potent going forward, with the loss at Brighton the first time they’d failed to score since early November, averaging a goal every 0.7 away games.
Injuries to Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, combined with the departure of Demba Ba, leave Pardew short of options up front and he will be heavily reliant on Papiss Cisse, who missed the defeat at the Amex Stadium but should return on Saturday, to get on the scoresheet at 2/1.
All things considered, this promises to be a free-scoring encounter, making both teams to score look good value at 57/100, while the same can be said for 7/4 on over 3.5 goals.
That was the way of it in last season’s fixture, where the Canaries ran out 4-2 winners and new customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin would win an incredible £1,360 for a repeat scoreline.
But with Newcastle’s current slide and Norwich’s increased canniness under Hughton, I think it might finish a little tighter and I am going with a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 home win for a nice 17/4 pay-off.
Top bet: Norwich to beat Newcastle 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 @ 17/4