The Championship returns with a West v East Midlands clash at St Andrew's on Friday night and Mark O'Haire is expecting Birmingham to get a positive result in a close match...
"Birmingham have impressed in the embryonic performance data this term and have faced the fewest shots in the box thus far"
Birmingham impressing under Bowyer
Birmingham entered the international break just one point outside of the Championship's top-six following a fine start under Lee Bowyer (W2-D2-L1). Blues were forced to settle for a share of the spoils in their last outing, a 1-1 draw with Barnsley at Oakwell despite piling on the second-half pressure where substitute Chuks Aneke hit the post late on.
Having fallen behind early on, Lukas Jutkiewicz equalised for City, and Bowyer felt his side deserved the win, saying, "We dominated the second half and created three very, very good chances. Not half chances, proper chances and I think we should have left with all three points - but we didn't take those chances. Unfortunately, we are leaving with just one."
Birmingham are expected to hand a homecoming debut to Troy Deeney in attack. The Blues fan has signed a two-year contract after leaving Watford and could come straight into the starting XI in place of Scott Hogan. Jutkiewicz and Taith Chong could join Deeney in Bowyer's preferred 3-4-3 system at St Andrew's. Ivan Sanchez is a confirmed absentee.
Derby battling for Rooney
Beleaguered Derby have performed above expectations in early Championship encounters this term. The Rams have six points on the board from five fixtures (W1-D3-L1) to sit four points clear of the dreaded drop zone, the latest of which was earned during a promising 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Nottingham Forest at Pride Park before the international break.
Manager Wayne Rooney described County's start as "OK" but admitted he's pleased with how his makeshift squad have performed, saying: "It is clear to see the lads are working and playing for the club, and they are putting a real shift in. They are taking the ideas of what I want from them and putting in good performances. I can't ask any more from the players."
Lee Buchanan is expected to step in for suspended Craig Forsyth at left-back on Friday, whilst striker Sam Baldock is available again. Skipper Tom Lawrence has rested and will re-take his place up top, although winger Kamil Jozwiak remains doubtful due to his involvement with Poland during World Cup qualifying on Wednesday evening.
Birmingham haven't enjoyed recent meetings with Derby, with the Blues posting a solitary success in their past 10 skirmishes with the Rams. Go further back and City have taken top honours just twice in 16 Championship match-ups against County, whilst the visitors are unbeaten at St Andrew's in their last eight encounters here (W5-D3-L0).
Birmingham 1.9720/21 have averaged 1.67 points during Lee Bowyer's 15-game spell in charge (W7-D4-L4). As hosts, Blues have returned W3-D2-L2, although City are yet to score in their two home outings in 2021/22. Nevertheless, Birmingham have impressed in the embryonic performance data this term and have faced the fewest shots in the box thus far.
Derby 4.707/2 have averaged 1.10 points during Wayne Rooney's 40-match tenure (W11-D11-L18) with the Rams finding the going particularly tough on their travels (W5-D2-L13). County have scored fewer than two goals in 18 of those 20 away days, whilst matches this season have been shy on goalmouth action with Derby particularly shot-shy in the final-third.
Eight of the last nine Championship clashes between Birmingham and Derby have delivered Over 2.5 Goals 2.255/4 profit for punters. However, it's difficult to make a strong case for a goals-based angle on Friday night considering the duo have combined to see just two of their collective 10 league games feature Over 2.5 Goals, averaging only 1.80 goals per-game.
Just three of Birmingham's 15 fixtures under Lee Bowyer and five of Derby's 40 outings during Wayne Rooney's reign have produced four or more goals, and therefore opposing a high-scoring showdown at St Andrew's is preferred with two well-organised outfits on show.
Backing Birmingham Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals appeals at 1.784/5 via the Bet Builder. We'll be paid out should the hosts win 1-0, 2-0 or if the game ends 0-0 or 1-1.
Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples - Every Day!
Place £20 worth of Multiples or Bet Builders over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 bet to use on Multiples or Bet Builders. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.
And don’t forget that Match Odds punters across all major European leagues will enjoy No Cash Out Suspensions on their bets this season. T&Cs apply.