Following the chaos of Blues’ summer, sitting pretty on seven points from four games wasn’t the expected result. However, that is where Pep Clotet has led Blues so far after an impressive win against Barnsley – okay, only Barnsley, but Blues restricted them to basically nothing in front of goal. New boy Alvaro Gimenez chipped an on-rushing ‘keeper and Lukas Jutkiewicz powered home a trademark header; all was good at St. Andrews.
Blues struggled on the road last time out, however, getting smashed by Nottingham Forest. Swansea are a different beast, and Blues found a more solid foundation with three centre-backs and academy wing-backs flanking them; if Clotet chooses to deploy five defenders again, we should hopefully see the Blues team that played against Barnsley. Ivan Sunjic and David Davis were impervious in front of the defence, and Fran Villalba added grit and hard work to his already impressive array of skills.
Swansea, however, have started the season on fire – 10 points from four games for them with eight goals scored. Three goals away from home last time out against QPR for the Welsh side, too, brings them into the Blues game in great goalscoring form.
Blues are unlikely to make too many changes to a winning formula. Both league wins this season have come in very different fashion, but both were whilst playing five at the back. Away from home against a team in rich form, it makes sense to keep a defence that stopped Barnsley having a shot of note. Jefferson Montero is unavailable after an electric cameo due to Blues playing his parent club, while Jacques Maghoma and Maxime Colin may potentially be able to make an appearance. However, their replacements have done a stellar job – Wes Harding in particular was in excellent form against Barnsley.
Swansea are missing a few figures, but only Nathan Dyer had been a key member of their great start. Striker Borja Baston will hope to continue his great goalscoring form as he has three goals in his last two games. Whilst the Swans have been clinical going forward, they have had issues stopping goals going in, and Blues can draw confidence from that and hope to hit a slick Swansea team on the break.
Like ships in the night, Swansea and Blues passed by each other – when Swansea came up, Blues went down – and as such, there have only been two league meetings between the sides since 2008. Last season, the Liberty Stadium hosted one of the games of the season, as Swansea scored a late equaliser to cancel out a Che Adams wonder strike in an end-to-end 3-3. Kristian Pedersen was sent off, but Blues battled on and nearly won the game, only to be denied so late on. At home, however, the game was a far less interesting goalless draw.
Blues seem unlikely to make too many changes. Gimenez and Jutkiewicz both scored at home in midweek, and the defensive side of the game was solid. Maxime Colin may come in as a potentially more defensively solid option, but Wes Harding could feel hard done by if he was dropped. There is potential for a little bit of rotation especially as Dan Crowley was rested against Barnsley, and he may come into the team. Blues, for the first time in ages, seem to have a lot of flexibility.
Pep Clotet spoke on his two goalscorers from Tuesday, and the challenge that Swansea present:
They both did very well. I was pleased because Alvaro only came a week and a half ago and it’s still early and it takes a lot of time to learn about the Club and the team, so it’s very promising. But it’s a new game on Sunday and they start from scratch and we need to do it again.
Swansea are a team that feel very comfortable at home because they have this culture with the way they play. All the fans buy into it and it gives them extra confidence. It’s very important that we try to threaten that comfort as much as possible. We need to be a threat going forward and give them a game. We are in a position that we back ourselves to go there and learn from the games that we’ve played away this season and see the things we need to improve on to be competitive.
Swansea Coach Steve Cooper spoke about their great start and how Blues are different to QPR:
We haven’t played brilliantly in the first half of the two home games, and that’s credit to the opposition. We have to be better and overcome that. That’s definitely a challenge for us. I would like to keep more clean sheets, there’s no doubt about that. Birmingham are going to offer certain threats so we want to be good at particular things in games. It’s just that mentality of striving to be better than where we’re at. They’ve (Blues) had a good start in terms of points. It’s going to be very different to QPR in terms of how they play. We’ve got to be a team that can adapt to different situations. They will play a different formation and style.They’re a real threat off set-pieces.