Sky Sports EFL pundit David Prutton has suggested that Birmingham could still be in for a difficult evening when they host Reading tomorrow night despite them having parted company with Aitor Karanka.
The Blues head into the game aiming to get back to matters on the field after what has been a hectic few days of speculation surrounding Karanka’s future and a potential replacement. This game represents a chance for them to have a fresh start somewhat and try and get out of a dismal run of form that ultimately led to the departure of their manager.
Birmingham’s 3-0 defeat at home to Bristol City on Saturday has left them in massive trouble, with Rotherham United now having as many as four games in hand on them. The Millers only have to make up two points on the Blues within those matches. Therefore, this game against Reading is one that needs to be won really.
Reading, meanwhile, are flying at the moment after recovering from a dip in form in February. The Royals are sat in 5th place in the table and are five points clear of seventh-placed Bournemouth.
However, they will be aware that they need to keep plugging away and keep getting results to prevent themselves from being caught by the chasing pack.
They have managed to win three of their last four games, which is many as Birmingham have managed to win since early December. That highlights the task at hand for the Blues who will need to have a major new manager bounce to pick up a much-needed win.
Making his latest round of predictions for Sky Sports, Prutton outlined that he believes that Reading will have too much for the Blues and that he expects them to have a comfortable 2-0 win.
He wrote: “The Blues will be without a manager for this game, after Aitor Karanka’s departure on Sunday. I don’t think it was too much of a surprise given the fact they are where they are in the table and the fact they’ve won just three games since early December.”
“Reading will no doubt see this as a great chance to strengthen their play-off hopes, with Barnsley now also on 61 points and Bournemouth battling just below. They seem to have put a February blip behind them and should run out pretty comfortable winners.”
It is hard to disagree with Prutton’s prediction here, although there can always be an element of uncertainty whenever a team losses a manager over how their players will respond in the following game. There will be a lot of players now playing for their futures at the football club and that alone should be a major motivation.
Birmingham have to start picking up points as time is running out now to move away from relegation danger. It is going to be a major job but if they can end their slide with a win against a promotion-chasing team it would certainly restore belief and confidence.
Reading will feel this is a game they must win if they are to achieve their objectives now between now and the end of the campaign. Automatic promotion would require a faultless run-in and seems unlikely, but they need to keep plugging away to avoid being caught by those behind them.