Birmingham City will head to South Wales high in confidence after their opening weekend victory against Brentford.
Jeremie Bela’s glancing header earned the Blues a 1-0 victory and Aitor Karanka his first three points as Blues boss with their defence holding strong to keep out the Bees on numerous occasions.
Their focus now switches to Swansea City, fresh off the back of a 1-0 opening weekend win of their own against Preston North End.
Steve Cooper’s side were beaten in the play-offs last season and will be eyeing the top six once again this time around, meaning Saturday looks set to be a tough test for Birmingham.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined the Blues XI that Karanka should play against the Swans…
Young Zach Jeacock made a number of good saves to keep out Brentford last weekend but the woodwork also played an important part in securing the three points.
Karanka has suggested his decision over who would start in goal against Swansea was already made prior to the game against the Bees and it’s hard to see him not going with new signing Neil Etheridge despite Jeacock’s impressive efforts.
Ahead of the former Cardiff man, you feel the Blues are likely to be unchanged after their clean sheet last weekend. George Friend’s debut was an impressive one alongside centre-back partner Harlee Dean, with Maxim Colin and Krystian Pedersen at full-back.
The new Birmingham manager showed instant loyalty to his former Middlesbrough lieutenant Adam Clayton in central midfield last weekend. The 31-year-old and midfield partner Ivan Sunjic may be tasked with dealing with the Swans’ midfield three on Saturday.
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Bela and summer signing Ivan Sanchez combined to give the Blues their winner against Brentford and the two wingers look likely to be key attacking threats for Karanka this season. They will surely reprise their roles on the flanks and look to cause some serious problems in behind Swansea’s wing-backs.
The Birmingham boss opted for a 4-2-3-1 on the opening day but following the arrival of Scott Hogan, who was so impressive on loan in the second half of last season, he will surely change to a 4-4-2 in order to include the ex-Aston Villa man.
Karanka has already revealed that Hogan will be in the matchday squad if he’s allowed to be following the transfer and assuming that’s the case, he’ll likely partner Blues stalwart Lukas Jutkiewicz up top.
That strike combination proved a strong one last term and should cause some problems for what is a very young centre-back trio in 22-year-old Joe Rodon, 20-year-old Ben Cabango, and 20-year-old Marc Guehi.