Sunderland have won three out of three home games against bottom half sides
Birmingham have conceded 30 shots on target in four games under Rooney
Jack Clarke ranks 6th for xA in the Championship
Sunderland v Birmingham
Live on Sky Sports Football
Saturday's early kick-off at The Stadium of Light gives us a game between two floundering sides hoping to find their rhythm after strong starts to the season.
Life in Birmingham for new Head Coach Wayne Rooney couldn't really have started worse. After taking over a team fresh off back-to-back wins under John Eustace, he then lost the first three games of his tenure and had to endure the boos of the Birmingham faithful. There were some green shoots when going ahead at home to Ipswich, only to squander a two-goal lead and coming away with just a point.
Tony Mowbray's Sunderland are normally dependable for goals and entertainment, but they've drawn a blank in three of their last four league games. They endured a frustrating afternoon last weekend when unable to break down ten-man Swansea for over an hour, and will be desperate to put that right here and get their promotion push back on track.
The Black Cats have won four of their seven home games this season, three of which came against bottom half sides. One of the defeats was against Middlesbrough when they had Dan Neill Sent off at 0-0.
Despite the poor recent results, there hasn't been too much to worry about in terms of the performances, which included a spirited display when losing away at Leicester, which is no tragedy even if it was something of a travesty.
Birmingham have been poor on the road, picking up just four of their 19 points away from home. Influential midfielder Kristian Bielik is also suspended for this one after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, which is a hammer blow for Rooney as he looks for his first win as Blues manager.
We can also take the Match Odds 90 offer here with minimal impact on the odds, meaning this leg will be paid out as a winner if the home side are ahead at 90:00 regardless of what happens after that.
Since Rooney took over they have conceded 30 shots on target in four games at an average of 7.5 per game, while Sunderland have averaged 5.5 in their last five games. If we dig a bit deeper, we can see that this is brought down by the fact that they mustered just three against Swansea from 25 shots, due to the ten men opposition operating in a low block meaning 10 were blocked, not to mention the two that hit the woodwork.
This is therefore a fairly easy stats based selection to add to the bet builder and aligns nicely with Leg 1.
Goals have been the order of the season for Jack Clarke so far, scoring nine times and currently sitting top of the Championship goalscoring charts along with Sammie Szmodics.
Surprisingly he's only mustered one assist, but he is due to add to that tally soon and this looks a perfect opportunity to do so. He assisted 12 goals last season, so we know that creativity is a big part of his game, and looking at the data Clarke isn't actually doing anything wrong.
He ranks 6th in the Championship for xA per 90 with 0.24, so it's more a case of his teammates failing to convert the chances that he creates rather than any issue with the supply line. If Sunderland do win the game and hit the necessary shot line, it's fair to think that Clarke will be the key creative force behind i
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