Blues took down Stoke at St. Andrews last time out with wunderkind Jude Bellingham bagging his first Blues goal to win it. It was an uninspiring victory, but a victory nonetheless – and realistically, Blues fans should be pretty used to uninspiring by now. There were flashes of what Blues fans want to see – Dan Crowley looked excellent off the bench, and a trademark Jutkiewicz header is always nice to see – but they’ll need more than a few flashes to beat Charlton.
The Addicks are yet to lose this season and are sitting pretty near the top of the Championship table after last year’s promotion. Goals from Lyle Taylor and Jonathan Leko gave them the win last time out against Reading, and Charlton haven’t conceded too much either. All in all, they present a tough task for Pep Clotet.
Blues might just need another deflection to trickle in to get through this one.
Though we thought so last against Stoke, surely Crowley will start today. He changed the game off the bench against Stoke, and Blues still didn’t have any way to progress the ball forwards without him. Villalba struggled in that game, and though Jude Bellingham had an impressive home debut, we’d be surprised to see him start away from home. Jefferson Montero, is, of course, not fit, but Jacques Maghoma is available and will probably join Kerim Mrabti on the Blues bench.
Charlton have been rocking a diamond midfield and two up top which has brought them plenty of success – their attempts at overrunning midfield could put plenty of stress on Ivan Sunjic and David Davis – who may need some help from the wide players to keep it tight in the middle. That is, should Davis play. He frustrated in the Stoke game, but his defensive work might be key if Blues are to get anything.
It’s been so long since Charlton played Blues, that the last time they played, James Vaughan started up front for Blues in a 1-2 away loss, with Jon Toral scoring. In the home fixture, Nicolai Brock-Madsen played. Unsurprisingly, Blues lost 1-0. You’d have to go to the season before to find a Blues win, when Lloyd Dyer scored the only goal of the game. For Blues. We were shocked too.
Montero is out so Crowley is a likely replacement, but both Mrabti and Maghoma are also able replacements. Though Alvaro Gimenez was quiet at home to Stoke, he’s versatile and adds some goal threat to an otherwise toothless front line around Jutkiewicz. Other than that, there’s unlikely to be too many changes – but Clotet might surprise us all.
Clotet spoke on Blues position in the table and wonderkid Jude Bellingham: “I am very happy with the points we have at the minute. Not fully happy with all of it but I think the team has produced a really good start, ten points now where last season we had four. We won away, we looked very strong at home and we identified that we have a lot of areas to improve – especially away from home. But that’s the nature of football.
“We want to turn ourselves into a team that can go and play the same style home and same style away and try to get as many points as possible. I think in the next block of games we have a really good opportunity because more or less the squad is ready. We had a few things that are recovering, now Kerim has had a couple of really good weeks to train, Maghoma is back on the pitch with us. I think now it’s about time to push and be brave an develop our football and trust ourselves. I am sure our fans will back the team in that process.”
“I would like everybody to remember that it’s our duty to protect him and to understand that he’s a little bit on a cloud. He trained with us for 30 minutes on Thursday, because obviously he played three games for England and the Stoke game, so that’s a lot of games in less than two weeks, so we had to tailor down the training. We didn’t overburden him after the England trip. When you are young the risk is greater and it’s very important in my position to assess the risk to every player. If I feel that there is little risk and he can help us, he will help us but there are a lot of really good players in the squad as well so we will see. We have to remember he had the chance because another player had an injury and we thought he was the best option for us at the time – and he did that job. I understand the fans are very excited because he is a homegrown player, but we are in a position where we need to evaluate risk and make sure the player can have a proper career for Birmingham.”
Former Blue and current Charlton manager Lee Bowyer spoke his mind: “It’s going to different really to what we have faced so far. They’re very solid out of possession, they get into their shape really quickly and we have to break them down. From the games that I’ve watched they’re very solid and they’ve got players that can hurt you going the other way. They’ve got a striker that is very good and from set pieces they’re good. We have to be patient. We’re going to have a lot of possession and we’ve got to move the ball quickly because if we don’t, we’ll just play into their hands. If we do the right things, like we have done so far this season, then it’ll be an interesting game. Obviously the first goal will be massive. But I’m looking forward to it it’s going to be a different challenge.”