Birmingham were edged out at the DW on Tuesday night and it’s a quite turnaround for Pep Clotet’s men as they host Middlesbrough on Friday night.
Middlesbrough put in a much improved performance against Preston on Tuesday night, and Jonathon Woodgate will be hoping his side can pick up their first away win of the season at St.Andrews.
Arguably, Birmingham have been one of the toughest sides to predict this season, and the Blues arrive here off the back of three consecutive defeats. Wigan boss Paul Cook described his side’s 1-0 success in midweek as ‘a bit fortunate’, with just a single goal separating the two sides.
At home, Brum have been much stronger, and have already dispatched of both Stoke and Barnsley although both wins were by a single goal margin. They also picked up a creditable 1-1 draw with Bristol City whilst they were only just edged out by Preston.
Pep Clotet is a naturally conservative manager although he does have some flair players in his side and Dan Crowley and Ivan Sunjic looked particularly good on the ball.
Middlesbrough repsonded to their setback against Sheffield Wednesday with a hard fought 1-1 draw against Preston on Tuesday night. The Teessiders fell behind just before the break before hitting back immediately. It was their third consecutive Championship game in which an own goal has occurred, although this time, it was in their favour.
Woodgate will be hoping that his side can build on those positives, and they certainly looked far more efficient going forward in that game. On the road, they’ve picked up just two points from a possible twelve, although they did look fairly dangerous in their 2-2 draw with Bristol City at the end of August.
Woodgate returned to the tried and tested partnership of Dael Fry and Daniel Ayala in midweek with the Spaniard being recalled to the side. This made them much tougher to break down, and harder to penetrate aerially. If you take the 4-1 defeat (in which Shotton played alongside Fry) out of the equation, they have only conceded ten times this season which isn’t a bad record.
They win over two aerial duels per game between them and they will undoubtedly have their work cut out with Lukas Jutkiewicz on Friday night. However, they shouldn’t collapse as easily with their best central defensive partnership on show.
With Lukas Jutkiewicz having netted three times this season (a third of Birmingham’s total goals), the Blues could do with more contributions from their midfielders. Fans will have been delighted to see Ivan Sunjic score an absolute cracker at the weekend whilst Gary Gardner was also off the mark for the campaign.
Whilst Jutkiewicz will act as a very efficient target man, Pep Clotet can’t just rely on the lofty frontman and it’s important that other players have started contributing.
Middlesbrough have won their last two trips to this ground although each of the last three meetings in the Championship have been settled by a single goal. The pair haven’t drawn since April 2016 although this could easily end all square. The visitors will be determined not to slip up again on the road whilst the home side are rarely beaten and tough to break down in front of their own fans.
Read More: See the rest of this week’s football match previews from the EFL matches.