Blues welcome Boro to St Andrews

Whoever thought this game would be a good one for TV is at best, ambitious, at worst, a sado-masochist. Blues have been dire to watch for large stretches of this season, and Middlesbrough aren’t exactly Barcelona either. This was never more obvious than against Wigan in mid-week, a game where both teams blatantly lacked quality and Blues were stale, toothless and uninspired. The ‘passing football’ we were promised only seems to exist in small bursts near the middle of the pitch, until we launched a ball towards Jutkiewicz’ head.

And yet, Boro are below Blues in the table. A team with a lot of money pumped into it in the last few years, but very little to show for it – Boro sit 20th. Don’t worry, Boro fans, we’ll be sure to gift you a win. It’s the Blues way. With questions surrounding the future of Pep Clotet and increasing dissatisfaction from Blues fans, there’s very little to get excited about right now.

BUILDUP

No matter what team Blues have put out this season, the best player on the pitch seems to come off the bench. Crowley has looked exceptional as a substitute, and Gimenez looked more dangerous off the bench against Preston than anyone else. There’s a good chance that Jude Bellingham will come back into the line-up, but he’s been used as a central player off the bench in recent games, and starting him in central midfield would be a huge call. Marc Roberts and Jacques Maghoma are again fit, and available.

THE STATS

Blues have traditionally had a terrible record against Boro, and they’ve lost home and away two seasons in a row. Britt Assombalonga scored a late winner at St. Andrews, and an early winner at Riverside. He also scored both goals in a 0-2 at Riverside the year before. Bamford scored the only goal at St. Andrews. Even a Blues goal looks unlikely if history is anything to go by.

LINEUP

Maghoma and Roberts are once again fit, while Villalba and Gimenez had quiet games at Wigan. Bellingham, though young, may provide some spark in an otherwise lacklustre Blues team, and even though we shouldn’t be relying on a teenager, Blues might be doing just that.

 

PREMATCH QUOTES

Pep Clotet spoke before what could be his last game as Blues boss: ”

“We have a good number of points, we are sitting well above expectation. But are we happy about it? No. Are we happy about the last few results? No. Are we happy about performances? We are – the performance at Derby, most of the performance at Wigan as well. For whatever reason, the results didn’t go hand to hand with the performance. That’s football and it happens, not just to us but every team.”

“We need to put things into perspective. Yes there is always pressure in football. I am more worried not having the performances because results come from good performances. The opposition controls their things as well and there is a big element of luck in a football game, if it is a low scoring game.”

“That means as coaches and players we can always try to ensure our performance is right because that will give us more chances to get a result. We are trying to develop young players here as well and think about not just the short-term but the mid-term and the future of the Club. A Club that, unfortunately, we haven’t had many good season in way of positives. So it is very important to think about the mid-term as well as the short-term. We need to provide club moments for those young players to keep developing. That’s our focus. We didn’t deserve those results we have had. But they came.”

Boro midfielder Paddy McNair spoke about the game on the club’s website:

“We deserved to win the game against Preston, but after going behind we’ll take the point and the improved performance. There hasn’t been a lot of time since that game, but I prefer a quick turnaround. You get straight on to the next game which is good.”

“We know Birmingham are a decent side, but we’ll looking to win the game to finish on a real positive before the next round of international fixtures.”

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