After an entertaining 3-3 draw with Hull at the weekend, Blues will be looking to end their winless streak of eight games when they face relegation threatened Huddersfield tonight. This game is Blues’ first game of seven in a busy month of July that will see the conclusion to the Sky Bet Championship season.
Huddersfield are yet to pick up any points since the season restart and will be hopeful of changing this when they come to visitor friendly St Andrews. This rather poor home form has led to Blues picking up just two clean sheets in nineteen games, losing seven whilst winning just six. Although overturning a team fighting for their lives will be no easy feat, Blues will be boosted by the terriers scoring just one goal in their last four games.
The reverse fixture back in November saw the two teams play out a 1-1 draw at the John Smith’s Stadium, when Marc Roberts’ header cancelled out Fraizer Campbell’s opener.
LAST TIME OUT
Although Pep Clotet will have taken some positives after Blues came from behind twice to secure a point at the weekend, he will be concerned with a very poor first half performance. It seemed typical when Hull, who hadn’t won since New Years Day, scored within the opening two minutes. The visitors doubled their lead soon after and it looked a long way back for an underperforming Blues team. The second half, with the addition of an inspired Jermaine Bela, saw a much better performance and a first ever double for Gary Gardner helped Blues to draw 3-3.
Blues’ Championship form: DDLDD
A Lewis Grabban double led Nottingham Forest to ease past Huddersfield 3-1 on Sunday. The Terriers also lost Juninho Bacuna late on to a straight red card and will therefore miss tonights game. Huddersfields only goal was a conciliation, after Faizer Campbell was fouled in the box in the seventh minute of stoppage-time, with Karlan Grant stepping up to slot home.
Huddersfield’s Championship form : WLLLL
Blues are boosted by the return of Midfielder Ivan Sunjic and central defender Marc Roberts, who are both available for selection after overcoming thigh injuries that saw them miss Blues’ two games since the Championship restart. Confusion over the EFL ruling regarding the return of players who were sent out on loan means Odin Bailey, Charlie Lakin and Josh Dacres-Cogley are unlikely to be available. Josh McEachran remains the only long-term absentee for the Blues.
The red card Juninho Bacuna received on Sunday means he is will miss Huddersfields next three games. Striker Steve Mounie, who the Terriers paid £11 million for back in 2017, could return after recovering from a quad injury.
ONE TO WATCH
Karlan Grant will be key to Huddersfield’s survival chances. He has 17 goals this season, putting him fourth in the Championships top scoring chart. Grant can play on the left wing and upfront, more recently manager Danny Crowley he has elected to play the twenty two year old up top.
VIEWS FROM THE DUGOUTS
Speaking ahead of the game Pep Clotet likened the poor start against Hull to what has been seen in other European leagues, claiming:
We’ve seen a lot of mistakes in the German league and in Spain particularly at the beginning of games. It’s important our focus is 100 per cent because these things can happen. Especially at home because there is no home advantage so it’s important to start the game properly. We can’t afford to start with mistakes which will help the opposition and given them a lift.
Clotet also outlined why he has elected not to start Jermaine Bela since the restart, after saying that that
“He got a little illness during training (non COVID-related) so he only had one full week of training before the West Bromwich game. We had to ease him in and now he looks much fitter and ready. Which is good because we cannot afford injuries on rushing players back too quick.
After appearing complacent against Hull in the first half of the game on Saturday, Clotet will be looking to avoid the same mistake. The Spaniard admitted that Huddersfield have a good squad “I think the league table doesn’t really reflect the quality of players they have at their disposal. We have to be ready, take nothing for granted and make sure we’re competitive as always.”
Terriers boss Danny Crowley went to watch the Blues on Saturday after his squad finished training. He claimed he learned a great deal from the match after stating:
“For us, it was a good game and we learned a lot from it. Birmingham are a good team, got two fantastic forwards in (Lukas) Jutkiewicz and (Scott) Hogan who are a real handful.
“They are a team that like to overload the midfield, get their full-backs high and wide, get lots of crosses in the box and ask lots of questions of you physically.
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC