Birmingham are battling to avoid relegation and face promotion hopefuls Swansea on Good Friday at St Andrew's. Mark O'Haire shares his best bet.
"With Swansea toiling and Birmingham enjoying renewed belief and energy, I’m happy to keep the Blues onside in a low-scoring showdown"
Birmingham v Swansea
Friday April 2, 20:00
Bowyer believes Birmingham is a perfect fit
Birmingham manager Lee Bowyer believes his recent appointment as Blues boss is a 'perfect fit' as the 44-year-old attempts to guide the strugglers clear of relegation trouble. The former Charlton supremo oversaw an impressive win over Reading in his first fixture in charge, before a convincing defeat at high-flying Watford before the international break.
Bowyer's arrival has reinvigorated a squad that had lost its way under his predecessor and filled Blues fans with hope. As a member of the team which won the Carling Cup in 2011 with Birmingham, the new man in charge knows all about the expectations from the club's supporters and has promised a hard-working, aggressive and forward-thinking approach.
Bowyer was looking forward to the international break as an opportunity to get to work with his players and early signs suggest Birmingham will revert to a traditional 4-4-2 system with Lukas Jutkiewicz recalled to start in attack alongside Scott Hogan. Elsewhere, Jeremie Bela and Alen Halilović have also been given an opportunity to impress on the flanks.
Swansea denied in the derby
Swansea have been made to stew over their disheartening derby defeat to Cardiff during the international break. The 1-0 reverse at the Liberty Stadium has given the Swans a mountain to climb in their pursuit for automatic promotion, with Steve Cooper's charges now trailing second-placed Watford by six points, and the Hornets enjoying a game in-hand.
Cooper bemoaned his side's inability to defend a set-piece and said his players should have dealt far better with the threat of Will Vaulks' long throw-in that led to what proved to be the winning goal. Admitting things were a little raw post-match, the Swansea supremo was pleased to allow his players an opportunity to rest and refresh during the break.
However, plans for Friday's fixture are in the balance after key forward Andre Ayew limped off the pitch after helping Ghana to secure a 3-1 win over São Tomé and Príncipe during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Sunday evening. His fitness and availability is now questionable ahead of the trip to St Andrew's. Jamal Lowe could be recalled if necessary.
Birmingham and Swansea have only met in league action on seven occasions this century with the visitors enjoying a slight W2-D4-L1 advantage. Indeed, the Swans did the double over the Blues in 2019/20, scoring three goals in both encounters, although the Welsh club were held to a goalless draw when the duo met at the Liberty Stadium back in September.
Birmingham 3.259/4 have been beaten in 13 of their past 21 contests (W4-D4-L13), a run of results that's led Blues alarmingly close to the second-tier drop-zone and saw safety-first Aitor Karanka dismissed. Home form has proven particularly problematic for City, posting a divisional-worst W4-D3-L12 at St Andrew's, an issue Lee Bowyer is keen to address.
Swansea 2.427/5 have suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season after following up Bournemouth reverse by enduring a derby defeat against Cardiff. There had been signs of tiredness in Steve Cooper's camp and the Swans supremo is hopeful the rest has allowed his squad to re-find their form ahead of the Championship's final furlong.
Goals were not commonplace during Aitor Karanka's reign at Birmingham with Blues' encounters featuring just 2.00 goals per-game on average. The hosts have scored just 14 home goals all season, although there's a hope and expectation that City will be more attack-minded under Lee Bowyer's watch, as seen in his first pair of fixtures in charge.
Swansea's tally of 2.00 goals per-game is also amongst the league's lowest, as a huge 27/37 (73%) of games also produced Under 2.5 Goals 1.501/2. Away from the Liberty Stadium, 13 of the 18 Swans' fixtures have featured fewer than three goals with Steve Cooper's men seeing BTTS bank on only eight occasions.
Another tight tussle is anticipated here.
With Swansea toiling and Birmingham enjoying renewed belief and energy, I'm happy to keep the Blues onside in a low-scoring showdown. Dipping into the Same Game Multi, we can support Birmingham Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals at 1.834/5, an appealing price considering the current climates in both camps.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 129.00 pts
Returned: 141.41 pts
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