The 2018/19 season kicks off this weekend, as Blues host Norwich City in what many hope will be the start of a progressive season at St. Andrews.
In “typical Blues” fashion, this pre-season has been calamitous to say the least. It has been common knowledge that Monk needed to strengthen during the summer transfer window, so of course Blues were placed under a ‘soft’ transfer embargo and then a full transfer embargo in July. Left-back Kristian Pedersen, who we revealed yesterday is finally registered, remains Blues’ only signing of the window so far.
However, strict transfer rules are still in place but as broken by We Are Birmingham two days ago, a move for England U20 international Josh Dasilva is on the cards.
As for our opponents, The Canaries are hoping a slight overhaul of players during the transfer window will push the team closer to the play-off places after their 14th place finish last season.
Experienced players were signed in goalkeeper Tim Krul and Jordan Rhodes, whilst the pick-ups of Finnish international Teemu Pukki and former Wolves winger Ben Marshall will strengthen the away side. In terms of outgoings, after 10 years at the club, midfielder Wes Hoolahan was released. The Canaries also lost their talent attacking midfielder in James Maddison, but managed to rake in a huge £22 million.
For the build up to the game, We Are Birmingham spoke to Talk Norwich City writer Connor Southwell.
This fixture is obviously being played in the backdrop of a financial situation for the hosts, and Norwich need to use the off-field situation to create uncertainty and make St. Andrews a cauldron of frustration by putting pressure on early on.
The Canaries have recruited well despite operating within the constraints of a financial strait-jacket. Tim Krul, Ben Marshall and Jordan Rhodes are all experienced Championship operators to blend with their continental contingent of players. Rhodes is doubtful for this game after picking up a minor ligament injury in a pre-season encounter with Luton.
Birmingham pose intriguing opposition for Norwich. Evidently they have off-field issues, but in Garry Monk, they have a manager who has a track record of building togetherness and playing aesthetically pleasing. In the end, I think both will cancel each other out.
Half Time Prediction:
Birmingham 1-0 Norwich
Full Time Prediction:
Birmingham 2-2 Norwich.
Predicted Norwich line-up:
(4-1-4-1) Krul; Marshall, Klose, Hanley (c), Husband; Trybull; Hernandez, McLean, Leitner; Pukki; Srbeny.
With Pedersen now registered and eligible to play, it’s likely that the team to start will be the same as the team that started in the final pre-season game against Brighton.
As per last season, we’ll be having a special guests in each match preview to predict their team and scores, however this season they will score points for each correct prediction and go on to a scoreboard.
First up we have broadcaster, journalist and ex Sky man Chris Skudder.
Looks like it’ll be hot – high 20’s so not expecting high tempo for long spells. Opening games rarely revealing. Few chances, first goal wins it.
Half Time Prediction:
Birmingham 0-0 Norwich
Full Time Prediction:
Birmingham 1-0 Norwich.
First Goal Scorer:
The last three league meetings between the two sides have ended in victory for The Canaries, in which Blues didn’t score a goal (2-0 in January 2017, 1-0 in September 2017 and 0-2 in December 2017).
In the last 12 away games that Norwich have conceded a goal, they have only went on to win the game once.
Blues ended their 2017/18 campaign with four wins from their last five home games, including the memorable 3-1 win over Fulham. Norwich are without an away win since January, which included a 4-1 and 5-1 defeat to QPR and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.
Birmingham City manager Garry Monk on off-the-field issues:
We haven’t lost any focus on the work we have been doing, with everything that has gone on. I can promise the fans our players will be 100 percent focused and committed, as always.
Norwich manager Daniel Farke speaking after a 1-0 pre-season loss to Charlton:
In the last two weeks, it is quite important how the individual performance is because we have to find a starting line-up and the squad that travels with us to Birmingham.
When the real stuff starts you have to be there and when you are not there 100 percent you will have problems – and this is what we learned.