EFL Championship

Birmingham City v Norwich City: Back 9/2 Blues to get late win to boost survival chances

Birmingham manager Gary Rowett
Gary Rowett's Birmingam need to win and hope results elsewhere go their way to stay up

George Elek from Not The Top 20 previews Saturday's televised Championship clash between Birmingham and Norwich, and thinks the visitors may take their foot off the gas late on...

  • Birmingham have taken two points from their last two games

  • Norwich's play-off berth could be confirmed long before the final whistle

  • Gary Rowett's side will feel like they should stay up with a win
  • Read Betfair's new 90 Minute Payout offer here

Birmingham v Norwich
Saturday, 12:30

Live on Sky Sports Football

And it all comes down to this. A season that started so brightly for Birmingham City, 6th in the Championship through 11 games and fresh off a welcome takeover, they are now staring down the barrel of a relegation to third tier of English football for the first time since 1994/95.

No matter what happens here, the decision to replace John Eustace with Wayne Rooney will go down as one of the worst managerial changes in history. The club have been unable to stop the rot that crept in when trying to adopt a 'no fear' style of play with a squad that had build to play for a pragmatist.

There were green shoots under Tony Mowbray, but his poor health means it's Gary Rowett trying to stop this ship from sinking. Back-to-back away games at 24th and 23rd should have offered a route to safety, but two points and one goal suggests that this might be a Blues side not up to the fight.

They now need a win here to force Plymouth to do the same against Hull, or a draw would suffice if Argyle are beaten. There are other permutations that bring Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn into it, and Birmingham will feel that they have a good chance of survival if they can get three points here.

The good news for them is that this might be a Norwich side with their eyes on a different bout, with the focus being not to cause any unnecessary damage rather than deliver a knock-out blow themselves with the play-offs looming.

Norwich are all but secure of a top six spot, with a draw enough to be absolutely sure. If they were to lose here and Hull were to rack up a score at Home Park things might get nervy, but the chances are that they have already done enough.

The thinking amongst the Norwich fanbase though is that they will be desperate to secure 5th so as to avoid Leeds in the semi-finals. I'm not convinced that this is necessarily such a priority, especially given Leeds have conceded seven goals in their last two games, and a two-legged tussle against Southampton is hardly the most appetising carrot.

David Wagner is likely to name a strong team here, but the overwhelming likelihood is that, as the games develop, it will become clear that Norwich's fate is decided long before the final whilst at St. Andrews. As such, he would be mad not to get the cotton wool out for the likes of Josh Sargeant and Gabriel Sara.

On the other hand, unless Argyle, Sheff Wed and Blackburn are all doing their bit, it will likely become clearer as the game goes on that a win will be enough for Gary Rowett's side to survive. As such, it's fair to assume that Birmingham will finish this game on top after what may well be a more even start.

Birmingham are well found in the market here for the above reasons, and wouldn't be anywhere near the 5/4 they are if this was priced up purely on form and quality.

It's understandable though that they are favourites given what's at stake, and the 9/2 about a draw at half-time and then a home win at the end looks a savvy way to get Birmingham on side.

Back Draw at HT and Birmingham to win @ 9/25.50

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Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.