Birmingham City will be hoping to disrupt the current form of old rivals, Aston Villa, when they host them at St. Andrew’s on Sunday. Having put the disappointments of last season firmly behind them, Steve Bruce has guided his Villa side to 5th place in the Championship table, with an impressive run of four wins in their last five games. For former Premier League stalwarts Aston Villa, the Championship was unchartered territory, but, Bruce seems to have steadied the ship and navigated them through perilous waters.
For Cotterill and Birmingham, however, the boat is well and truly rocking..
An uplifting victory over Cardiff City on the 13th October was marred by a disappointing and gutless away performance against Millwall little over a week later, resulting in a 2-0 defeat. Cotterill will be hoping that the atmosphere at St Andrew’s on Sunday will be enough to fire up his Birmingham side, who are yet to truly show what they’re made of going forward.
Villa, conversely, will march behind enemy lines spirited by a 2-1 home win over last year’s play-off semi-finalists, Fulham, last Saturday. They’ll be spurred on by the knowledge that their away ties against struggling oppositions so far this season have yielded some lucrative results: 3-0 away at Barnsley, and 4-0 away at Burton.
Villa’s defence—centred around veteran captain, John Terry—has been particularly crucial to Bruce’s success so far this season. They’ve shipped just the thirteen Championship goals. The same as league leaders, Wolves.
Birmingham, on the other hand, have let in twenty-one. But that’s not necessarily what Cotterill will be worrying about most prior to Sunday’s kick-off. The Blues have only managed to score eight goals all season, with only Burton and Bolton managing to find the net fewer times.
Blues fans will be hoping that the occasion might inspire some more attacking vigour in their side when Villa come calling. They can certainly take heart in the fact that Villa have managed only two wins on the road this season and that ten of Birmingham’s eleven points have been achieved at St Andrew’s.
Final score prediction: 1-1.
This will be a cagey affair, one that neither side will want to lose. It’s not only bragging rights at stake this time, but position too – Villa will be looking to consolidate their play-off challenge with a hard-fought away draw, while Birmingham will need every point they can get as they aim to drag themselves away from a relegation battle that’s looking more and more likely to involve them at the end of the season.
Isaac Vassell (Birmingham) – Vassell is a young Championship striker with a lot to prove. He’s impressed in his recent performances against Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff, and Millwall and he’ll be aiming to make a particular point against the club that so fondly remembers his uncle, Darius.
John Terry (Aston Villa) – Who else? Birmingham were bookies favourites to sign former Chelsea and England legend, Terry, for the majority of the summer until Bruce and Villa pipped them to the post; a fact that the St Andrew’s faithful is unlikely to forget at the weekend. He’s a man for the big occasions and—if he plays to his magisterial best—he’ll have the better of the Blues attack.
Birmingham (4-2-3-1): Kuszczak; Colin, Morrison(c), Roberts, Grounds; Kieftenbeld, Davis; Jota, N’Doye, Adams; Vassell.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry(c), Hutton; Snodgrass, Whelan, Hourihane, Adomah; Onomah, Kodjia.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Carl Jenkinson, David Stockdale, and Emilio Nsue are all unavailable for Birmingham.
Gabby Agbonlahor, so often the thorn in Birmingham’s side, is doubtful, as are Mile Jedinak and Henry Lansbury. Jack Grealish and Andre Green are both unavailable for Aston Villa.
The Last Word:
This preview wouldn’t be complete without Bruce’s advice for any fans attending the game: ‘We need people to come and support their team, roar their heads off, go have a beer early, then get behind your team and leave it at that’.
Beer or no beer, it’s sure to be a feisty spectacle in Birmingham and one that’s not to be missed.
Kick-off is 12:00pm BST Sunday 29th October.