Good day one and all and welcome back to another preview. Tonight we head to Birmingham City on the back of a good showing on the weekend, picking up all three points against fellow strugglers Millwall. On Saturday we seemed to get something that we haven’t had much of this season, luck. A somewhat dubious penalty and an away team who’s strike force decided to do everything possible to avoid scoring despite having all of the chances in the world. We looked clinical and for the first time since the victory over Hull, we looked quite comfortable and like we were winning at a canter after Meite’s second goal. What are the chances of us picking up consecutive victories however?
Well, first and foremost – if you’re a betting man, a draw may well be the best one to go for in your accumulators. Having picked up a league high 8 draws from the opening 13 fixtures this season, Birmingham have only managed three wins – the same as us. I find Birmingham are the Championship equivalent of Southampton, or perhaps a Crystal Palace. They never really look in true danger of going down, but I can’t remember since their last relegation one season in which I thought the Blues could make any serious surge for the business end of the table. Despite this and the somewhat unconvincing League positioning, Birmingham are actually on the longest unbeaten run in the division, having gone nine games without tasting defeat (3 wins, 6 draws.) They have taken 11 points from the last possible 15, which is definitely a record I would take for Reading right now. It may seem therefore that I’ve made cases for Birmingham being both a good side and an unconvincing one in this paragraph. I apologise for that. My point is that I don’t think Birmingham have the quality or the staying power to really threaten up the top of the table and there are certainly numerous teams I’d be less optimistic ahead of playing. But I have to acknowledge their good run and the consistency Garry Monk has bought to the Blues under a rather limited budget. If they’re up at the top end of the table this season I’ll happily eat my words, but I can’t see this run of form lasting too much longer.
As for the players, this is really where my argument for Birmingham not reaching any real heights this year comes in to play. As I have said, Garry Monk has done a good job at making Birmingham tough to beat this season. I’m not disputing that. However, there is a reason behind the fact their only real impressive victory has been against Leeds United last month (thanks for busting my acca that day by the way guys.) The reason behind this is if you take a look at their squad, the word average is the first that comes to my head. Now, I feel like I have to keep giving this disclaimer for any Birmingham fans reading – please don’t get annoyed at me. You’re doing well with what you have. I’m also not saying we don’t have a very average squad because in reality we do. By average I mean that the high-flyers of the division probably wouldn’t rush to take these players off your hands. I have always though Maghoma is a good players and Jota on his day is also a very good players. With Jota however I feel like he is a player similar to John Swift. He’s a joy to watch when you’re 3-0 up but perhaps not the Manto dig you out of tight spots. However take a quick look at the following players: Jutkiewicz, David Davis, Omar Bogle, Harlee Dean, Michael Morrison. Do any of those for example really stand out as top-quality Championship players? I don’t think so.
Prediction time. Birmingham certainly have enjoyed more success than us so far this year (who hasn’t realistically) but as I’ve suggested I don’t think they’re anything more than a lower mid table club this season. Arguably then, much like us. I don’t see a huge difference in quality between the two sides and with Birmingham the divisions draw specialists and us coming of the back of a win, I think it’ll be a 1-1 draw tonight.