Birmingham v Reading
Wednesday March 17, 19:45
Birmingham dismiss Karanka
Struggling Birmingham lost at home for the 12th time this season as Bristol City ran out cushy 3-0 winners at St Andrew's on Saturday. The result prompted the club's hierarchy to dismiss boss Aitor Karanka with Blues sitting one place outside of the relegation zone but having played four more games than the club currently occupying the final relegation spot.
Karanka had overseen a miserable campaign which has yielded just eight victories from 36 Championship matches and Birmingham have won just three of their last 19 to slip into trouble once more. The calamitous nature of the weekend defeat can't have helped the Spaniard's cause, giving away two soft goals and failing to land a single attempt on-target.
Karanka defiantly claimed he wouldn't resign post-match but issued stinging criticism of his players post-match, saying: "When you are losing you need to have that direction, but we didn't deliver one ball into the box. It is impossible to win games if you don't score goals from the chances you have and you are making mistakes every day."
Reading remain on track for top-six
Yakou Meite marked his return from injury with a late equaliser as Reading held Nottingham Forest to a 1-1 stalemate in the Championship on Saturday. The share of the spoils ended a three-game winning streak for the Royals with boss Veljko Paunovic admitting he felt the draw at the City Ground felt like a defeat after an impressive showing from the away side.
In truth, Reading fully deserved the point - at the very least - and went close to a late winner with Tom Holmes heading wide and Michael Olise shooting over in injury time. The visitors enjoyed 59% possession of the ball, fired in 23 sots at goal and always appeared the most likely, with Paunovic left to bemoan his team's wastefulness in front of goal post-match.
He said: "We created so many opportunities. We could have won the game. The equaliser came very late. We spent so much energy trying to get the equaliser. But even after that, we had pressure. But we were not clinical and that was the key." Paunovic is hoping to have Michael Morrison, Ovie Ejaria and Andy Rinomhota back at some stage this week.
Curiously, the home team has only won this specific fixture once in the last 10 renewals with seven away triumphs in that same sample going back to August 2015. Reading have earned top honours in three of their past four trips to St Andrew's but were turned over in the reverse fixture back in December with Birmingham running out 2-1 victors in Berkshire.
Birmingham 3.6013/5 bagged just eight wins in 36 Championship contests under Aitor Karanka in 2020/21, and Blues come into this clash off the back of 12 league losses in 19 (W3-D4-L12), a run of results that saw the safety-first Spaniard dismissed. Home form has proven particularly problematic for City, posting a divisional-worst W3-D3-L12 at St Andrew's.
Reading 2.305/4 haven't strayed outside of the top-six all season and the Royals are back on track following a lean spell before Christmas. The Berkshire outfit have returned W8-D4-L4 in their past 16 outings and have improved their road results too, losing just once in seven away days (W3-D3-L1). The visitors have W14-D3-L4 against teams in 12th and below.
Goals were not commonplace during Aitor Karanka's reign at Birmingham with Blues' encounters featuring just 2.00 goals per-game on average, although that figure did increase to 2.39 goals when viewing St Andrew's showdowns only. Nevertheless, the hosts have fired blanks in 16/36 (44%) league dates this term, including 8/18 (44%) as hosts.
Reading's improvements in defence have led to six of the Royals' past seven encounters ending with Under 2.5 Goals and a repeat could be on the cards here. However, 1.584/7 quotes on a low-scoring showdown don't hold plenty of appeal. Instead, take Reading Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals in the Same Game Multi for a 1.9520/21 shot.