It’s been quite a week for Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers.
First, the Northern Irishman was presented with the Premier League Manager of the Month award for January after guiding his side to seven points from four matches.
That run included hugely impressive wins over Arsenal and Aston Villa, while they were only denied a third over Chelsea by a freak injury-time own-goal from Neil Taylor.
Rodgers was then rewarded with a new three-and-half-year contract, which he richly deserves for his work at the Liberty Stadium.
I have long been an advocate of the so-called lesser lights being brave and taking the game to their more illustrious opponents, rather than setting themselves up to frustrate and pray for a reward in one of their rare (and usually direct) forays forward.
The Swans’ brand of attractive passing football has made them a breath of fresh air this term, much like Blackpool were last year, with the difference being that Rodgers’ men are much more solid defensively than the Seasiders were.
It’s no coincidence that Swansea’s ability to retain the ball has restricted their rivals’ attacking menace and as a neutral, one must surely hope other promoted teams will take note in the future.
This weekend, the Welsh side welcome Norwich City, who have also exceeded most pundits’ expectations since securing their return to the top flight.
I am also full of admiration for their boss Paul Lambert, who has proved himself to be an equally shrewd operator over the past two seasons.
It’s amazing to think that on August 8th, 2009, Lambert’s Colchester United team inflicted a 7-1 thrashing on Norwich at Carrow Road in League One.
The Canaries’ board clearly liked what they saw as they swiftly replaced Bryan Gunn with his fellow Scotsman – and two years and back-to-back promotions later, City are sitting pretty in ninth place in the Premier League.
The best option for this clash comes In the goalscorer markets, where it is well worth backing Scott Sinclair to score at any time at odds of 7/5 (he is also 5/1 to break the deadlock), especially as the Canaries are yet to record a clean sheet on the road.
Swansea’s impressive home form has been well-documented – they have only lost to Manchester United – and this is why they are installed as 4/5 favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market.
The draw is available at odds of 12/5, while if you fancy Norwich to take all three points back to East Anglia, you can back them at 7/2.
A look at the statistics reveals that Swansea have actually conceded in each of their last four home games, while Lambert’s men have only failed to score in two of their 12 away fixtures this term.
Backing Norwich to at least score looks a solid short-priced punt at 1/2, then, but their form on the road suggests they could pose an even greater threat to their fellow Premier League newcomers.
Prior to a 3-0 defeat by in-form Sunderland last time out, they collected eight points from trips to West Brom, QPR, Wolves and Everton, so heading to south Wales will hold no fears for them.
It should be noted that Swansea ran out comprehensive 3-0 winners in the corresponding meeting between the sides last term, while Norwich triumphed 3-1 when they locked horns at Carrow Road in October.
The Canaries have a perfect record against promoted teams this term – three wins out of three – but more instructive is the fact that they have not won at Swansea in eight attempts, stretching back to March 1962.
On top of that, Lambert may have to field a completely new pairing at the heart of his defence, as Daniel Ayala is out and Zak Whitbread is struggling with a hamstring complaint.
With these factors taken into account, I suspect the Swans may just have the edge here, but their 3Way price is best avoided as Norwich could well upset the odds.
Rodgers’ men may have to come from behind to get the victory, as before firing a blank at the Stadium of Light, Norwich had scored in the first half in their previous four away matches.
They are priced at 21/10 to score once prior to the interval on Saturday, but more appealing could be the run of play market, which has lead-lose priced at a very tempting 7/1.
New customers can claim a free £25 bet for joining bwin.com and placing it on this selection would provide winnings of £200 if successful.
However, the best option for this clash comes In the goalscorer markets, where it is well worth backing Scott Sinclair to score at any time at odds of 7/5 (he is also 5/1 to break the deadlock), especially as the Canaries are yet to record a clean sheet on the road.
The former Chelsea flier has scored in each of Swansea’s last three home matches and in four of their last five, while his spot-kick duties may be required against a Norwich side who have conceded four penalties already this term.
Alternatively, a small play on either Whitbread (if fit) at 18/1 or fellow defender Russell Martin at 9/1 to score at any time looks decent considering Norwich have scored more headed goals (12) than any other top-flight team this term.
Along the same lines, strike duo Steve Morison and Grant Holt – both a major threat aerially – are available at odds of 2/1 and 9/4 respectively to hit the back of the net at the Liberty Stadium.
But however this match pans out, it should rightly be held up as a celebration of two teams and two managers who advocate attractive football and have proved that you don’t need a bottomless financial pit to prosper in the Premier League.
New customers can register here to claim a free £25 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting