Can Norwich and Sheffield United avoid Premier League relegation next season?
We assess the chances of the Championship's promoted clubs
Norwich and Sheffield United would not have been at the top of many punters’ list for the Sky Bet Championship title at the start of the season, but the promoted pair have shrugged off the challenge of the division’s big spenders and on Sunday one will be crowned as champions.
The Canaries were 25-1 for the title and 8-1 for promotion in pre-season, while the battle-hardened Blades were 28-1 for silverware and 10-1 to make their Premier League return.
We assess how the pair achieved promotion and what is required for them to retain their top-flight status.
A point against Aston Villa on Sunday will be enough for Daniel Farke’s men to claim the Sky Bet Championship title and that would be a momentous achievement for the Canaries given their lack of investment.
Norwich were forced to sell their most-prized assets James Maddison (Leicester) and Josh Murphy (Cardiff) for a combined fee of £33m in the summer transfer window, but instead of splashing the cash on finding their replacements,City elected to work with what they had and were shrewd with their business.
Prolific Finnish forward Teemu Pukki, their leading scorer with 29 goals, was picked up on a free transfer from Danish side Brondby, as was the case with goalkeeper Tim Krul, who boasts plenty of Premier League experience.
Energetic youngsters Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, who have excelled in their full-back roles, have came through their academy system, while German duo Marco Stiepermann and Christoph Zimmermann joined Norwich when countryman Farke arrived at Carrow Road in the summer of 2017. They have been a pivotal part on the road to promotion.
Since August, Norwich have lost just three times and their success has been a credit to their never-say-die character.
The Canaries have had an extraordinary habit of rescuing late points. Farke’s side have netted 30 of their 91 league goals after the 75th minute - eight more than any other team in the division - with their high-energy levels often wearing down opponents.
But Pukki, 29, struggled with Celtic in 2014, netting just seven times in 26 starts and it's quite possible the Championship is his level.
Farke's philosophy is evident. The German believes attack is the best form of defence and that could leave them exposed in the Premier League against classier opposition.
The Canaries have conceded 56 goals in 45 league games, shipping two or more on 16 occasions, and they have become too reliant on Zimmerman to keep things together.
It’s important, however, that Farke learns from where Fulham went wrong and doesn't attempt to buy their way to survival.
The experienced Chris Wilder has been a success wherever he has been in charge and it is long overdue that the boyhood Blade gets his opportunity to manage alongside Europe's finest.
Wilder has excelled since moving to Bramall Lane in the summer of 2016 and he has now achieved two promotions in three years having won the League One title in his debut season.
The Blades are extremely well-organised under his care and they won't suffer many heavy defeats while he remains at the helm.
Sheffield United have conceded just 39 times in 45 league games, keeping 21 clean sheets, and the back three of John Egan, Jack O'Connell and Chris Basham have been integral in their promotion push.
Skipper Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick, who have 39 goals between them, have blazed a trail up front, while John Fleck and Mark Duffy have been running the show from midfield.
But Fleck is the only one of that key quintet that is the right side of 30 and only Sharp boasts Premier League experience. Even then he featured just twice for Southampton in 2012-13.
Wilder has a strong defensive unit to work with but the Blades will need to add some youth and energy to their side if they are to remain competitive and a lack of goals could be an issue.
With that in mind, Norwich could have a better chance of surviving in the Premier League next season but it will be tough for both.
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