Wayne Rooney’s Derby County make the trip to St Andrew’s on Friday evening and will be hoping to leapfrog Lee Bowyer’s Birmingham City with a win.
The Blues have carried on where they left off last season at the beginning of the campaign, playing some exciting, attacking football and remaining very dangerous from crosses and set pieces.
Two wins, two draws and one loss from the opening five represents a solid beginning, just one point outside the play-off places.
Bowyer’s men are firm favourites under the lights on Friday, Derby’s financial problems off the pitch hugely restricted them this summer and with Troy Deeney’s arrival bolstering the hosts’ ranks it will be an excitable home faithful roaring the Blues on.
A slide down the table seems inevitable at some point for the Rams, however Rooney will be desperate to carry on their positive start against the physical threat of Birmingham.
Here, we take a look at three selection dilemmas for Lee Bowyer to consider ahead of Birmingham City v Derby County…
The Watford legend has scored 84 goals in the second tier but only managed seven for the Hornets last term.
Scott Hogan and Lukas Jutkiewicz have been Bowyer’s go to men since his took to the helm in March, however the Deeney’s pedigree at the level is undeniable and it feels like him and Jutkiewicz are jostling for one spot in the side.
With Jonathan Leko loaned out to Charlton Athletic there is cause for concern in terms of the mobility of the Blues frontline, with Jutkiewicz, Deeney, Hogan and Chuks Aneke not blessed with great agility in the final third. It will be interesting to see which combination Bowyer chooses for this fixture.
Stick with Hogan?
The 29-year-old passed up a guilt-edged chance in the Blues’ frustrating 1-1 draw at Barnsley last time out before the international break and with the added competition for places, his spot is under threat.
Hogan is the most unique of the four strikers at the club and therefore is likely to retain his jersey, however he will be under pressure to perform in a match Birmingham are expected to win.
Combat Rams trio
Derby’s main strength in hurting the opposition lies in midfield areas and the skill of Max Bird, Graeme Shinnie and Louie Sibley.
The Rams’ rearguard have been in inspired form in recent weeks however in terms of breaking Birmingham down, they will look to control the centre of the pitch.
Having deployed a midfield duo of Ivan Sunjic and Ryan Woods in the last few matches, there is the risk the Blues could get overrun on Friday and therefore Bowyer should consider bringing in one of Gary Gardner or Riley McGree to address the situation.