Our unbeaten run is finally over but as one ends a new one starts with Birmingham City the team that stands in our way tonight. Will we replicate our win in the cup or will we make it two losses in a row?
Today’s opponents have had a good start to the season. They currently sit on eleven points with three wins, two draws and one loss. Having spent every season since 2015/16 in a relegation battle, it looks like the club might finally be gaining some stability. This up-turn in form has coincided with the appointment of former Blue, Lee Bowyer. His recruitment this summer as well as some of his tactical decisions have been very good. Some of the standout players that he recruited in the last window are Tahith Chong who has been excellent on loan from Manchester United, Ryan Woods who has added some much-needed energy in the centre of the park and Watford legend Troy Deeney who will be a handful for any Championship defender. Despite using a 3-4-3 formation for most of this season, I think Bowyer will revert back to the 3-5-2 formation he used in Birmingham’s win over Sheffield United. I also think he will give Deeney his debut as he is a player who could really hurt our team with his physicality. This will be a tough challenge for Marco Silva and Fulham as our opponents will look to sit deep and frustrate us.
I don’t know where to start with Fulham. Despite being a victory away from regaining our place at the top of the league, our defeat to Blackpool exposed a potential floor not necessarily in the squad but in Silva. I will reiterate as I have before that we have a squad that should win the league this season, our depth is staggering for this level. The problem is that I’m not sure if Silva trusts a lot of the squad. We should have rotated against Blackpool, a lot of our players had just come back from international matches but they still started. We had an international hangover which could have easily been avoided. It was naive and underestimated our opponents. Hopefully, that complacency doesn’t continue against Birmingham.
In terms of team selection, some of the players were off the pace at Bloomfield Road and looked very leggy. We have seven games to play in just twenty-one days so using our squad depth will be key and the big advantage we have over the other sides in this division.
Fabio Carvalho is likely to remain on the sideline with a slight knock and Tom Cairney is still out with his ongoing concerns. With this in mind, I think we should make as many as six changes to the side that lost to Blackpool. Both USA internationals Ream and Robinson rested, bringing in Mawson and Bryan as replacements. Freshen things up in the middle of the park with more tenacity from the energetic Harrison Reed, saving Seri for the Reading game due to his recent matches for Ivory Coast. Chalobah to come in for his debut alongside Reed, replacing Quina after what I can only describe as a poor debut. This would mean that Onomah moves forward to a more advanced midfield role as I think he’s the most likely to make those runs beyond Mitro so that we can get in behind the Birmingham defence. This was a big part of Fabio’s game that we really missed on Saturday.
I’m hopeful after Silva said that Harry Wilson is in contention that he will be back in the side in place of Ivan Cavaleiro to give us more quality of service for Mitro who was isolated on Saturday. Finally, bringing Kebano in on the wing for Decordova-Reid again to rest him, although admittedly he did look the least affected by his recent international excursions.
I can see it being a tight game but I’m backing Mitro to nick a winning goal which will send Fulham back to the top of the table tonight. Fingers crossed. COYW!
SCORE PREDICTION: Birmingham 0-1 Fulham
PREDICTED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- PLAYED – 84
- FULHAM WINS – 27
- DRAWS – 26
- BIRMINGHAM WINS – 31
- GOALS SCORED – 119
- GOALS CONCEDED – 115
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (AWAY)
- PLAYED – 42
- FULHAM WINS – 11
- DRAWS – 13
- BIRMINGHAM WINS – 18
- GOALS SCORED – 59
- GOALS CONCEDED – 67
LAST 5 GAMES
- FULHAM 1-0 BIRMINGHAM
- BIRMINGHAM 0-1 FULHAM
- BIRMINGHAM 3-1 FULHAM
- FULHAM 1-0 BIRMINGHAM
- BIRMINGHAM 1-0 FULHAM
BIGGEST WINS AT ST ANDREWS
- BIRMINGHAM CITY 1-4 FULHAM (1952/53)
- BIRMINGHAM CITY 4-1 FULHAM (1962/63)
PLAYERS IN COMMON
Jimmy Allen, Sone Aluko, Hameur Bouazza, Bobby Brennan, Dan Burn, Andy Cole, Mark Cooper, Papa Bouba Diop, Neil Etheridge, Steve Finnan, Kerim Frei, Julian Gray, Jordan Graham, Geoff Horsfield, Andy Johnson, Stephen Kelly, Graham Leggat, Paul Peschisolido, Franck Queudrue, David Stockdale, Maik Taylor.
DID YOU KNOW?
Of the 93 occasions that Fulham have faced Birmingham, only 6 matches have been won by more than a 2 goal margin.