Unbeaten Blues head away to Nottingham Forest for another tough fixture at the start of this 2019/20 season. With four points under their belt after two difficult looking fixtures, Blues fans are optimistic about the season and another point or three in Nottingham would establish a great start.
Forest, on the other hand, have one point from their first two and really need a win at home to kick-start their season. A home loss to fellow West Midlanders West Brom and an impressive away point at Elland Road aren’t at all disastrous, but if the Tricky Trees did lose at home to Blues, it would be a pretty weak start for a team expecting to be nearer the top of the table.
Forest had a busy transfer window, notably gazumping Blues for Wolves forward Rafa Mir and bringing in former Blue Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal. Winger Albert Adomah and the always-fun-to-say Sammy Ameobi joined on frees, while a loan deal was struck for Man City ‘keeper Arijanet Muric and Toulouse midfielder John Bostock, with five other signings coming in. The player who will scare fans more than any of these names, however, is Joe Lolley, a boyhood Villa fan who appears to have made a career out of scoring against Blues.
Blues’ formation switch at home to Bristol City worked quite well, as Fran Villalba and Gary Gardner flanked Dan Crowley as a pseudo three behind Lukas Jutkiewicz. Villalba was the shining light in that game, as he brought a flashy performance that quickly made him a favourite with the St. Andrews crowd. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the performance of David Davis, a player whom was expected by many to struggle to find a spot in a more progressive Blues side, but he had an excellent game next to record signing Ivan Sunjic and will probably expect to play again. Blues have played a lot of three at the back in pre-season and in the opening fixtures, so we may see a return to that away from home, however.
Forest have also adopted a 4-3-3 formation in their opening fixtures with Lewis Grabban as the spearhead of their attack. Flanked by Adomah and Lolley, both players who have terrorised Blues before, there’s plenty to be worried about. Blues may be able to expose the lack of pace that Forest’s defence has, however, with the veteran Michael Dawson anchoring the Forest defence. While Jutkiewicz might not have the speed to get in behind, Villalba and potentially new boy Alvaro Gimenez might be able to scare the experienced defender.
Blues beat Forest at St. Andrews last season with goals from Jota and Che Adams, both of which now play their football elsewhere, but last year’s fixture at the City Ground was a disappointing one as Blues threw away a two goal lead. Joe Lolley was amongst the scorers, as he was the year before as Forest won 2-1 in their backyard. Che Adams bagged the only goal of the game as Blues won at home in late 2017.
While Blues have gone with three at the back in previous away games, it would be hard to choose a player from the midfield who would lose their spot. Davis and Sunjic were excellent at the base of midfield and Gary Gardner has shown a wide skillset that has allowed him to be versatile, as he has played deep, he’s played out wide and further up. Kerim Mrabti is still injured and there is no word on Jacques Maghoma’s fitness, while Jefferson Montero is still waiting on his international clearance before he can don the Blues shirt. We expect a very similar line-up to the Bristol City game, but there may be room for a third central defender or for Steve Seddon to come back in with Kristian Pedersen moving centrally.
Forest have quite a few injuries, with Joao Carvalho, Yohan Benalouane, Michael Hefele, Ryan Yates and Tendayi Darikwa all missing out. Chema Rodriguez joined Forest late in the transfer window and may be in line for his debut, but other than that, we’re expecting few changes to their last league game against Leeds.
FansBet have Blues at 3/1 to beat Forest at the City Ground on Saturday meanwhile the hosts are 21/20. The draw is 23/10. In a FansBet Fan Partner special, we have Lukas Jutkiewicz to recreate last season’s visit and score a header at 14/1.
Click here to go to Fansbet where can find all these bets on Fansbet, and every time you bet, you support We Are Birmingham.
Pep Clotet spoke about his pre-match training and the challenge Forest present: “We’ve been working hard on a few things, but particularly on correcting mistakes which happened on Saturday against Bristol. The week has given us a chance to reflect on what we do and how we move forward. We did a lot of work on Wednesday in correcting those mistakes that happened and on Tuesday we did a little more work on the finishing side and as well on the strength side. Yesterday was a rest day and today is about game preparation. Having a full week with the players is very valuable because it gives them the chance to get to know each better and know what kind of passes they like and what kind of situations they’re stronger in.”
“It’s a tough challenge for us playing against a team in need of a win and sometimes that’s not easy to handle. We’ll try and perform again and see what happens. We know the strengths and weakness they have, but we need to focus on what we are good at. After this weekend we have a game at home (on Tuesday against Barnsley) and away next Sunday (at Swansea City), so we have three games in a week. After that we’ll see where we’re heading and what the challenge is in front of us. I just want the team to keep growing and enjoying the football they are producing.”
“It is difficult to play that kind of football at this level in the Championship, but that’s our aim. Playing good football doesn’t just mean moving the ball well it’s also about being good defensively. It’s very important to get the balance right.”
Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi spoke about Blues in his press conference:
“I saw their two games, the first against Brentford which was a fantastic result for them but Brentford missed a lot of chances.”
“Against Bristol it was different and it was not easy for them to play. I think it is easier for them to play away, not at home, so we expect them to play like against Brentford.”
“We know that and we need to find the solution to disturb them and create a lot.”