We’re treated to a derby in the Sky Bet Championship on Sunday as Birmingham take on Aston Villa. Tom Carnduff has two best bets.
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Birmingham City v Aston Villa (Sky Sports Football)
- 1200 GMT kick-off, St Andrew's Stadium
It’s a huge Second City derby on Sunday with both sides fancying their chances of reaching the play-offs.
With all the talk of Leeds’ revolution under Marcelo Bielsa, Norwich’s rise under Daniel Farke and West Brom’s attempt to bounce back into the Premier League, Birmingham’s efforts with Garry Monk at the helm have gone a little under the radar.
We were unsure what to expect of the Blues this season with many expecting them to be battling at the other end of the table due to a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the club.
There is, of course, talk of a potential points deduction due to Financial Fair Play breaches but Monk is ensuring his side remain fully focused on matters on the pitch.
Despite their current league position, Birmingham’s home form could have been better and that is a slight negative on what has been a largely positive season.
Just six wins from a possible 17 means they sit 17th in the home standings. Their away form has undoubtedly been better, although a strong performance in a local derby could be the catalyst for points at St. Andrews during the run-in.
A win could move them to within two points of the play-offs after Saturday's results.
One player who is towards the top of the ‘positives’ column for the hosts is Che Adams. The striker is having the season of his career so far with 21 goals and four assists.
The 22-year-old also picked up the February Player of the Month award. A fully deserved accolade for a month that brought six of those goals on his tally.
He’s thriving on the momentum he has created. A slow start to the season saw just three goals prior to mid-October. Ten of his goals have come in the opening two months of this calendar year.
Adams will have to be the main focus for the Villa defence. If you can keep him quiet, you’ve got a great chance of victory.
However, that’s much easier said than done. The forward managed to grab an assist on one of Birmingham’s two goals at Villa Park at the end of November.
He’s formed a great partnership with Lukas Jutkiewicz, the duo have to take credit for playing a significant part in Birmingham’s current position.
Even if Birmingham fail to make the top-six, Adams is a player who we should be seeing in the Premier League next season.
Clubs were looking at him in January and they will almost certainly be back in the summer, that’s alongside the number of admirers that his performances in the second-half of the season attract.
Despite Adams lining up for the opposition, an inconsistent Villa side can still hold hope of picking something up against their bitter rivals.
They’ve been incredibly hit-and-miss throughout the current campaign. A recent 4-0 hammering of Derby, with all four goals coming inside the first 45 minutes, shows that they can hit the heights of a top team.
However, defeat to Leeds just before Christmas, where they surrendered a two-goal lead at half-time, highlights how there is still work to be done under Dean Smith.
Birmingham’s home form isn’t convincing enough to back them for a win, especially in a derby game. Expect to see a drilled and organised Blues outfit, but one that will have to settle for a point on the day.
Score prediction: Birmingham City 1-1 Aston Villa (Sky Bet odds: 5/1)
- Birmingham have won just one of their last 15 matches in all competitions against Aston Villa (D4 L10).
- Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last six league visits to St. Andrew’s against Birmingham (W3 D3) – each of the last three have been draws.
- Birmingham have only kept one clean sheet in their last 10 Championship games (W3 D3 L4), with that coming in a 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest at the start of February.
- Aston Villa are looking to win back-to-back Championship games for the first time since November 2018, when they won three in a row in a run that included the reverse fixture against Birmingham (4-2 at Villa Park).
- Garry Monk has won more matches against Aston Villa during his managerial career than he has against any other club (six).
- Dean Smith has won four of his last five Championship meetings with Birmingham (D1).
Odds correct as of 1700 GMT on 09/03/19