Blues open up their home campaign with a tough task, taking on Bristol City in the unofficial derby for the BCFC hashtag. Though Blues had an uneventful deadline day, sometimes nothing is better than something.
Fan favourite Marlon Pack left to leave a bittersweet taste in Bristol City fans’ mouths. That said, Bristol City did snag the signing of Blues-linked Benik Afobe on the final day of the window, leaving Blues with only two recognised centre-forwards going into the season.
Bristol also lost Jamie Paterson, which was an unpopular decision. Blues, of course, lost Isaac Vassell to Cardiff, which was similarly unpopular. The loss of Vassell means that the brunt of Blues’ goalscoring burden will be on the wide shoulders of Lukas Jutkiewicz and the slightly slimmer shoulders of Alvaro Gimenez, and though it may be too soon for Gimenez to start, the summer signings of Ivan Sunjic and Fran Villalba may make their Blues’ debuts at St. Andrews tomorrow.
Blues took a heavy loss at Fratton Park on Tuesday, but very few of the players who played midweek will start tomorrow. Last time the first team played, they took an unlikely victory at Brentford; despite only taking one shot, and that one shot being a header from all of 22 yards, Blues stole three points from London. As uplifting a win as it was, Blues fans will be hoping for a few more shots this time around – the same result, however, would be ideal.
Blues will likely bring Sunjic into the first team line-up and Villalba may feature, though he has had less time with the squad. Kerim Mrabti and Jacques Maghoma are likely to drop out of the squad due to injuries. Teenager Jude Bellingham impressed in midweek and will hope to make a bench spot, whilst new boy Gimenez is almost certain to be there. Pep Clotet will likely keep the same back six who kept a clean sheet at Griffin Park, which would mean a continued spot for Steve Seddon, who impressed in pre-season and grabbed the assist for Kristian Pedersen’s majestic header, as well as veteran ‘keeper Lee Camp. David Stockdale was expected to usurp Camp, but a disappointing performance at Fratton Park may set back his chances.
Hungarian midfielder Adam Nagy is expected to be available for the Robins after a move from Bologna at the end of the window, as well as former Wolves striker Benik Afobe. Nagy is expected to slip into the spot of the departed Marlon Pack in the line-up that faced Leeds. Bristol, unlike Blues, started at home and unlike Blues, lost their opening game of the season, 3-1 to the Whites. Former Villa striker Andreas Weimann did pull one back for Bristol City, but it was too little too late.
Last time out, Blues won at Ashton Gate 2-1 thanks to goals from Connor Mahoney and Michael Morrison, who have both since left. The last Blues home game, however, was nicked by Bristol with Famara Diedhiou bagging the only goal of the game. Two seasons ago, Blues also started off their home games with the visit of Bristol and in that one, Craig Gardner’s low drive and Jacques Maghoma’s stunning strike helped Blues come back from a 0-1 deficit to win – hopefully a good omen. Jutkiewicz also grabbed a goal against Bristol City that season, but it was a consolation in a 1-3 loss at Ashton Gate.
Subject to any late injuries, we expect Pep Clotet to keep faith with the majority of the starting line up that battled its way to hard fought 0-1 victory away at Brentford last Saturday.
Blues spent most of the game going direct and on the back foot away from home last week, but Pep will expect his side to take more control and be more attacking on home soil, so we may see the solitary change of David Davis making way for debutant Ivan Sunjic. Maghoma could be replaced by a number of options but after his performance in midweek he may get the nod for a league debut.
Blues are 33/20 to beat Bristol City in their home opener on Saturday meanwhile Bristol City are 19/10 to get their first 3 points of the season. Dan Crowley is 8/1 to open the scoring, meanwhile top (and only so far) scorer Kristian Pedersen is 9/1 to score at any time.
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Blues boss Pep Clotet spoke on tomorrow’s game:
We’ve been working hard, I don’t think we created enough problems against Brentford probably because we scored early and we were away from home and we wanted to protect that lead, but it’s important we work hard on creating more opportunities going forward.
Apart from a few injuries, we have everyone available – Mags and Grounds (calf), Mrabti and Keita (hamstring) and Kieftenbeld (knee) – everyone is focused on how to tackle this tough game at home, everyone is okay apart from those lads.
I expect Bristol City will do very well, they were very good away from home last season – they lost the first game against Leeds so they are going to want a reaction – we are going to need all the support we can get, we want to get off to a good start at home.
Bristol City assistant head coach Dean Holden:
We have to provide a response against Birmingham, we are fully aware of that…That’s part and parcel of being professional, you have to respond to the next challenge which is a big one at Birmingham but it’s one we can’t wait to get in front of and give it our best shot.
It’s an exciting time to be at Bristol City, to be a coach working with some high-quality players, including the new signings who have added quality to what we already have.