Norwich City are now only a handful of points from confirming their return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, and they’re arriving to the promised land in grand style after thrashing another recent PL side 7-0 in EFL Championship action.
Canaries crush Terriers to close in on Premier League promotion
Teemu Pukki scored three goals and Emi Buendia tallied three assists (and a goal), as Norwich City raced out to a 6-0 lead against Huddersfield Town in the opening hour. Those were goals no. 23, 24 and 25 for Pukki, who still trails Brentford’s Ivan Toney by three in the Golden Boot race; as for Buendia, the 24-year-old Argentine picked up assists no. 13, 14 and 15 — five more than anyone else in the Championship.
Pukki plus Buendia is a formula that has worked all too well this season, and one we’ll likely see manager Daniel Farke try once again in the Premier League next campaign.
Norwich remain top of the table, where they have spent the vast majority of the 2020-21 season, as they enjoy an eight-point lead on 2nd-place Watford. The gap to 3rd-place Brentford, the side with the best mathematical chance of knocking them out of the automatic promotion places, is 17. Due to Brentford and 4th-place Swansea City (a point back of Brentford) both having a game in hand, Norwich need just five points from their last six games to secure a top-two finish. A win over Derby County on Saturday, plus draws or losses by Brentford and Swansea, would also do the trick this weekend.
Simply put, it’s a matter of when, not if.
Watford, Brentford, Swansea slipped up midweek
The consequences of Watford unexpectedly drawing mid-table Middlesbrough on Monday were hardly severe, though the result will delay their seemingly inevitable Premier League promotion (also at the first time of asking) a bit longer. Even if Brentford win their game in hand, the Hornets will still enjoy a six-point advantage for the second automatic promotion place. They’re not a lock for promotion, only highly, highly likely.
On the other hand, Brentford’s scoreless draw with 21st-place (and relegation-threatened) Birmingham City, and Swansea’s defeat to 16th-place Preston North End, looks like having a massive impact on seeding ahead of the promotion playoffs.
Not only did both sides fail to put a bit of distance between themselves and the other side, but more importantly they allowed 5th-place Barnsley to pull within a point of 4th and two back of 3rd (without having a game in hand). What once appeared a foregone conclusion, that the Bees and Swans would finish three-four or four-three, is now anything but.
They are two teams which are very clearly the best in the Championship this season, and it’s not entirely certain there is another complete side in the division. As ever, the promotion playoffs should be full of endless drama.
EFL Championship results
Norwich City 7-0 Huddersfield Town
Middlesbrough 1-1 Watford
Brentford 0-0 Birmingham City
Swansea City 0-1 Preston North End
Luton Town 1-2 Barnsley
Reading 3-1 Derby County
Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Bournemouth
Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 Cardiff City
Stoke City 1-2 Millwall
Nottingham Forest 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
Coventry City 3-1 Bristol City
Rotherham United 0-3 Wycombe Wanderers
EFL Championship schedule
Watford v Reading — 2:45 pm ET
Millwall v Swansea City — 7:30 am ET
Derby County v Norwich City — 10 am ET
Preston North End v Brentford — 10 am ET
Barnsley v Middlesbrough — 10 am ET
Bournemouth v Coventry City — 10 am ET
Cardiff City v Blackburn Rovers — 10 am ET
Birmingham City v Stoke City — 10 am ET
Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday — 10 am ET
Wycombe Wanderers v Luton Town — 10 am ET
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest — 10 am ET
Huddersfield Town v Rotherham United — 10 am ET