Sunday sees Birmingham entertain bitter rivals Aston Villa in the Second City derby from St Andrew's. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"City have suffered only three home defeats, although the hosts have shared the points in eight of those 17 encounters, as well as 13 of their overall 28 tussles when excluding the bottom-six"
Birmingham v Aston Villa
Sunday March 10, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports
Birmingham aim to bounce back
Birmingham missed the opportunity to close the gap on the Championship play-off places last weekend when Blues conceded a goal in each half to succumb to a 2-0 defeat at Hull. Manager Garry Monk admitted his team "weren't at our usual level" and suggested his small squad had looked "jaded" at the KCOM Stadium.
Lukas Jutkiewicz had chances either side of Hull's opener midway through the opening 45 minutes. The Birmingham striker was denied again early in the second period before the hosts secured a decisive second from the penalty spot. With Blues desperate for a response, leading marksman Che Adams and Connor Mahoney were denied in the dying embers.
Monk will be glad to have had the full midweek off to rest and recuperate ahead of Sunday's showdown and the Birmingham boss almost has a full squad to select from. Defender Marc Roberts and midfielder Charlie Lakin are working their way back to full fitness and will not be involved but the hosts are otherwise at full-strength for the derby.
Grealish return inspires Aston Villa
Jack Grealish returned from injury to skipper and inspire Aston Villa to a stunning 4-0 success over Derby last Saturday. The emphatic victory ended a five-match winless run to get the Claret & Blue's play-off challenge back on track; Grealish scored a breathtaking volley, whilst Conor Hourihane's double and a Tammy Abraham strike completed the rout.
Dean Smith's side were four goals up before the interval with Hourihane starting the first-half onslaught inside the opening 10 minutes. The hosts continued to run riot in the second period as Abraham, Grealish and Anwar El Ghazi could all have added to the margin of victory. Villa were rarely, if ever, threatened by a Derby side that failed to land an effort on-target at Villa Park.
Grealish's return to the side after three months out is a major boost for the hosts, who also welcome back John McGinn from suspension on Sunday. However, Smith saw centre-half Tommy Elphick suffer a severe foot injury meaning he'll miss the derby with Kortney Hause expected to shift across from right-back with Neil Taylor coming into the starting XI.
Honours even at St Andrew's
You have to go back 14 years for the last time Birmingham enjoyed Second City bragging rights in the league against their bitter rivals with the Blues now winless in 14 derby fixtures since 2005 and their Premier League days (W0-D4-L10). Three of the most recent five St Andrew's showdowns have ended all-square with a repeat available at [3.25] on Sunday.
Ante-post markets forecast Birmingham [2.70] for a season of struggle, but Garry Monk's guided Blues into a promising position within striking distance of the top-six. City have suffered only three home defeats, although the hosts have shared the points in eight of those 17 encounters, as well as 13 of their overall 28 tussles when excluding the bottom-six.
Aston Villa [2.72] have W4-D9-L4 since the start of December to lose ground on the top-six. However, the return of Jack Grealish has aided their prospects; the Claret & Blue boast a W9-D8-L5 return with the skipper in the side, compared to W2-D7-L4 when he's not been involved. Like their neighbours, Villa have been regular draw merchants (15 from 35) and a repeat looks likely to be on the cards again this weekend.
Stats suggest low-scoring derby
The reverse meeting in November was the first Second City derby in the league to feature three or more goals in a decade, and whilst the pair have been amongst the goals regularly this term, the stats don't suggest a high-scoring showdown when viewing respective home/away records in 2018/19.
Over 2.5 Goals is a [1.90] chance but when combining the two teams' efforts in home/away outings, the selection has only provided profit in 17/34 (50%) encounters with the average goals per-game figure sitting at 2.47. Turning to Expected Goals (xG), the average xG per-game involving the pair in their collective home/away ties is just 2.51, suggesting there's little value in entering the goals markets, particularly with the derby factor feel.
Mark's 2018/19 Profit/Loss
Staked: 117.00 pts
Returned: 118.88 pts
P/L: +1.88 pts
Mark O’Haire says: back the draw @ 3.25 in Birmingham v Aston Villa