Birmingham and West Brom might not carry the same antipathy for each other as they do for Aston Villa or Wolverhampton Wanderers, but with those two foes in the Premier League, Friday night’s game is the closest thing either has to a derby day this season: while not quite as heated as other rivalries, this one will carry plenty of local passion. Here are my recommended football tips for this Birmingham vs West Brom betting preview.
Few show more passion on the sidelines than Albion head coach, Carlos Corberan, who has inked a new contract this week amid reported interest from Leeds. This is a huge boost for the Baggies, who have won 10 of their 13 league games since the Spaniard arrived at the Hawthorns.
That run has put West Brom in the play-off spots, while Birmingham slid into a relegation dogfight with a run of five straight league defeats. That run was set to turn into six losses in a row at Swansea last time out, before Lukas Jutkiewicz’s 90th-minute leveler and Auston Trusty’s injury-time strike gave John Eustace’s side a dramatic 4-3 victory, lifting them seven points clear of the bottom three.
With four of the bottom five facing one another, the Blues would keep the drop zone at arm’s length if they could avoid defeat.
Eustace aiming to inflict derby day Blues
Even when John Eustace’s side matched Wigan for the longest losing streak in the Championship this season, few Bluenoses turned on the Head Coach, who took charge in the summer.
Eustace inherited a club with off-field troubles, and a squad short on depth. It possessed a bench typically comprising of a combination of teenagers, like Alfie Chang, who are finding their way in senior football and veterans who might have been offloaded in different circumstances.
Excellent coaching and galvanizing motivation saw the former QPR coach inspire Birmingham up to 11th after 19 games, largely with a consistent first XI, but it wasn’t a huge surprise when form dropped after the World Cup interlude, because options to freshen things up – both in games and between them – were limited.
After arresting the slide with a dramatic victory at Swansea last time out, the Blues are in the business of ticking off 50 points. They require another 15 from their remaining 17 encounters, and if they could get one or three of them against their in-form neighbours, that would be a welcome bonus.
Can Baggies build on Corberan commitment?
Like Eustace, Corberan has proved an excellent coach, not only for inspiring a drastic turnaround in fortunes this season but also leading Huddersfield to a play-off final last term. The Baggies are so well-drilled against the ball that, as we saw against Coventry last Friday, they don’t have to be at their very best in possession to be effective.
Star man Jed Wallace was quieter than usual against the Sky Blues, yet still flicked the ball on for Grady Diangana to bundle home and, while Albion didn’t create too many clear-cut chances after the opener, they were superbly organised and thoroughly deserving of their clean sheet.
The aggressive Dara O’Shea delivered a true captain’s performance in central defence, alongside Erik Pieters, while Jayson Molumby and Okay Yokuslu forged a formidable shield in front of the rear guard, which has kept clean sheets in eight of Corberan’s 13 league games in charge.
Although West Brom have been hit by the loss of goalkeeper Alex Palmer and even though goalkeeper David Button did well with the little that was thrown at him last time out, the fact he was congratulated by all his teammates at full-time for catching a simple corner implies there have been some concerns over his capabilities, which forthcoming opponents will look to test.
The tactics board
Birmingham are likely to deploy a mid-block and ask their forwards – which will be two of Scott Hogan, Reda Khadra, and Troy Deeney – to press Molumby and Yokuslu aggressively, but let O’Shea and Pieters have the ball, likewise full-backs Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend until the final third. The Blues will want to keep their wing-backs free-handed for keeping tabs on Albion’s Jed Wallace, who may be granted freedom to roam from his starting number 10 position because Krystian Bielik isn’t as quick and thus couldn’t do a man-marking job.
Also on the agenda for Eustace will be stopping Albrighton and Diangana – the former, from crossing the ball, the latter, from running at Maxime Colin, who would likely suffer in a footrace. At the same time, his side must do enough as the home team in a local clash to take the game to the opposition, and ask questions going the other way.
If Birmingham can keep the ball in the middle third, though, they will never be too far away from creating a chance due to the ball-carrying qualities of Khadra, Tahith Chong and Emmanuel Longelo. Manchester United loanee Hannibal Mejbri can pick a pass, too, and while poacher Scott Hogan doesn’t have searing pace, he still has the knack of getting ahead of defenders over 15 yards with the right service.
For Albion, though, the big question lies up top: physical front-man Daryl Dike would be the option likelier to maximize Albrighton’s deliveries, but the raw and exciting Brandon Asante can get in behind.
Birmingham vs West Brom Betting Tips
A draw would haul Birmingham another step towards safety, and guarantee West Brom spend the rest of the weekend in the top six with Watford and Blackburn playing one another. Albion are well-coached but have concerns in the goalkeeping position and were not exactly firing on all cylinders going forward last week, while Birmingham have only lost three in eight against top-six opposition, having already held Watford and Burnley at St Andrew’s.
The draw can be backed at 23/10 with Betfair, while the Diangana assist is available with the same bookmakers at the same price: the DR Congo-born winger has created 1.79 open play chances per 90 minutes this season, the fourth-most in the Championship, and will be out to star individually in B9, even if the game ends all square.
Draw @ 23/10 with Betfair
Anytime Assist: Grady Diangana @ 23/10 with Betfair
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