Auf Deutsch! How will Daniel Farke fare in Norwich City reunion?

10.05.2024 10:03:40 Ashlee Kiddell
Leeds United manager, Daniel Farke.

Leeds United boss Daniel Farke will make his return to Carrow Road to face Norwich City on Sunday as the Championship play-offs get underway.

 
Former Canaries head coach Farke was sacked by the Norfolk club in November 2021 but returned to England to manage Leeds in July 2023
He will go up against German-American coach David Wagner who took charge of Norwich in January 2023.

The EFL Championship play-offs are always met with huge anticipation. The tremendous financial prize on offer by earning promotion to the Premier League means the stakes are incredibly high.

The additional narrative of Farke’s return makes the battle between Norwich and Leeds this time around even more salivating. Equally, these two sides have endured a fierce rivalry now for some time, with clashes aplenty across the top two tiers of English football. They will be fighting for a place in the Championship play-off final over the next week.

The Whites did the double over Norwich earlier on in the season, with Farke recording a 3-2 win at Carrow Road in his first game back last November. Back in January, Leeds sealed a narrow 1-0 win at Elland Road thanks to a goal from former Canary Patrick Bamford. The connections between the two clubs seem endless.

Leeds are the current favourites for the first leg and the bookmakers have them listed as heavy favourites to reach the play-off final. However, Leeds have a history of failing at this stage, and they also had a shoddy end to the season. As for Norwich, they have experienced past success in the play-offs and so has their coach Wagner. It should be a fascinating affair, fuelled by the added storyline of Farke’s reunion.

 

Will Leeds fall apart again?

For all of the positives that a team can garner from a ferocious, deeply-rooted and passionate fan base such as at Leeds, is it also the reason why they always struggle in the play-offs? Rather infamously known, Leeds often fall apart. And it could be happening again.

Following a 2-1 loss at Elland Road last Saturday against Southampton on the final day, the players looked a little worrisome and uncomfortable. What was the reaction from the crowd going to be after the team had failed to secure automatic promotion, despite sitting top in mid-March?

Perhaps that is the reason as to why Leeds have never gained promotion in five attempts at the play-offs. Pressure can get to players, and failing in front of such die-hard support plays on the mind.

That pressure has already been felt. As we edged closer and closer to the Championship season’s conclusion, Leeds faltered. Individual form dropped, confidence fell and goals leaked. The Whites recorded just one league win over their final six games. That also included four defeats. Now, Leeds have to put their recent woes out of their minds and focus on the play-offs.

The atmosphere around the club has shifted. From one that oozed confidence during Farke’s earlier tenure, to one of dread that they may be falling apart again. Still, the German coach has tried to maintain that self-belief, and he will have his own motivations as he makes his return to East Anglia this Sunday.

During that last win in Norfolk in November, rather respectfully against his former employers, Farke’s celebrations were muted. He admitted himself that it was an emotional day but he managed to control those feelings. That demonstration of self-control and to not allow emotions to cloud judgement could be what Leeds need to finally get over their play-off hoodoo.

This time, however, it feels different. The stakes are much greater, and you wouldn’t blame Farke if he was to celebrate with his new team. Albeit, nothing will have been secured after the first leg, and instead, the emotions may spill out at Elland Road in the second. That is if Leeds are able to conquer Norwich, of course. Ultimately, the result may come down to  whoever can hold their nerve and remain focused on their game plan.

 

A new German in East Anglia

Norwich fans have their new German coach in charge. Former Huddersfield Town boss Wagner has managed the side for just under 18 months and is set for a run at the play-offs in his first full season.

Canary fans have often been bemused at performances and tactical decisions from Wagner this season but results don’t lie. Once again, Norwich are in the promotion hunt. Despite sitting in mid-table for large parts of the campaign, a strong run since the turn of the year has catapulted Norwich into contention.

Momentum has proven to be key in the past in order to achieve play-off success. Unfortunately for Norwich, they aren’t exactly heading into this clash against Leeds in the best shape. They have won just one of their last five league games but they lost just once in that time, and did just enough to seal that final sixth-placed spot. Nevertheless, the Whites are hardly in good form themselves.

Like his German counterpart, Wagner has achieved promotion to the English top-flight before. In 2017, he managed to guide the Terriers to the Premier League via the play-offs. However, both of Farke’s promotions with the Canaries came from winning the Championship title. Play-off football is different, and one that Wagner has the upper hand in over Farke. That could make the difference in this tie.

 


Who will come out on top?

Leeds have the advantage of knowing that they’ve beaten Norwich twice this season. Maybe Farke has Wagner’s number. But Wagner knows what it takes to get through the play-offs, Farke doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

The Canaries haven’t won at Elland Road since 2019 and Leeds will have their home support for the pivotal second leg. The Whites boasted the second-best home record during the season but their only two defeats on their own turf have come in the last month. Perhaps that is a nod to the pressure of playing in front of the Leeds faithful when it matters most.

The first leg seems to be incredibly significant. A defeat for Norwich at Carrow Road will almost certainly mean they are out of the play-offs. However, the Canaries have excelled at home themselves, recording the fourth-best home record in the division. It’s away from home where they have struggled, picking up a measly 24 points from 23 games this season.

The statistics are all in Leeds’ favour. But statistics go out of the window in the play-offs. In a test and battle of mettle and nerve, the question is, who will come out on top? Only time will tell who can handle the pressure better.

 


 

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