Both these bottom-half dwellers will be looking to find their form in Friday night's St Andrew's encounter. Mark O'Haire examines the betting.
"The Second City have rarely ignited under Pep Clotet, firing in the division’s the fewest shots, and featuring towards the bottom end across a range of attacking metrics"
Birmingham v Middlesbrough
Friday October 4, 19:45
Birmingham fall short in midweek
Birmingham fell to their third straight Championship defeat on Tuesday night as goalkeeper Lee Camp allowed a long-range effort to slip under his body to gift Wigan victory at the DW Stadium. The midweek match was shorn of quality and looked destined for a draw, with neither side able to create any real openings before Camp's costly error settled matters.
Dan Crowley shot wide with Birmingham's first effort at goal and that set the tone for the night, as the Blues failed to hit the target in 12 attempts. Youngsters Odin Bailey and Jude Bellingham added energy in the second half but the visitors failed to seriously threaten as they searched for an equaliser, generating an Expected Goals (xG) tally of just 0.54.
Jake Clarke-Salter came in to make his Championship debut for Blues - alongside Harlee Dean - as regular centre-half Marc Roberts missed out with a slight hamstring strain. Fran Villalba also came in to replace Jacques Maghoma with the winger left out as a precaution. Birmingham are hopeful both Roberts and Maghoma will be fit enough to feature on Friday.
Woodgate pleased with improved Boro
Middlesbrough's winless run extended to three games on Tuesday night as the Teessiders were held to a 1-1 draw by Preston at the Riverside Stadium. Boro fell behind against the run of play but levelled almost immediately before half-time when Darnell Fisher bundled into his own net, after a burst down the right by Marcus Tavernier and Paddy McNair.
Jonathan Woodgate's charges were vastly improved from Saturday's 4-1 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday and had opportunities to take top honours thereafter. Opposition goalkeeper Declan Rudd made a series of key saves, most notably when denying Marcus Browne with his legs before tipping over Marcus Tavernier's effort as Boro pressed.
Woodgate was pleased with his team's display after making four changes with Daniel Ayala, Jonny Howson, Browne and Tavernier coming into the XI. He said, "I thought we deserved to win the game, I thought we played really well. It was a step in the right direction after that defeat to Sheffield Wednesday." George Friend and Hayden Coulson remain out of contention.
Out-of-form outfits make little appeal
Birmingham have lost each of their last four meetings with Middlesbrough and are winless in 10 (W0-D4-L6) head-to-head encounters in the Championship since 2013. Blues have seen three of their most recent five contests with Boro at St Andrew's end all-square (W0-D3-L2) with a repeat available to support at [3.10] on Friday evening.
Birmingham [2.42] have fallen into the bottom-half of the second-tier table following three successive defeats and Blues have arguably overachieved (W4-D1-L5) across their opening 10 outings. The Second City have rarely ignited under Pep Clotet, firing in the division's the fewest shots, and featuring towards the bottom end across a range of attacking metrics.
The appointment of hometown hero Jonathan Woodgate at the start of the season to replace Tony Pulis as manager was supposed to herald a new dawn for Middlesbrough [3.20]. But while supporters were heartened by a more adventurous approach, results have disappointed and the Teessiders have slipped to 18th, tabling just two triumphs (W2-D4-L4).
Goals at a premium at St Andrew's
Just two of the last eight clashes between Birmingham and Middlesbrough have surpassed the Over 2.5 Goals [2.36] line and it's difficult to foresee a thrilling Friday night fixture. The pair have combined to see just 7/20 (35%) of their collective Championship matches produce three or more goals with the average goals per-game standing out at just 2.30.
Delving into the advanced performance data metrics also paints an uninspiring picture with the duo amongst the bottom-four in the division for total Expected Goals (xG) from open play, again highlighting the dearth of attacking opportunities on show across their opening exchanges in 2019/20.
With little to appeal elsewhere, it makes sense to oppose goals at St Andrew's. Backing 'No' in the Both Teams To Score column, as well as Under 2.5 Goals via Betfair Sportsbook's Same Game Multi market, has paid out in 10/20 (50%) of the two teams' matches thus far and can be supported at 2.10.
Mark's 2019/20 Profit/Loss
Staked: 30.00 pts
Returned: 33.09 pts
P/L: +3.09 pts