Birmingham City will be hoping to continue building momentum tomorrow afternoon after their win against Swansea City last weekend, as they travel north to take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
The Blues’ much-needed victory against Russell Martin’s men last week was their first league victory since last month, going winless in their last seven before their clash against the Swans’ and winning just two points from a possible 21 in that torrid run.
Due to this run of form, they slipped down from the heights of fourth to 19th after their 0-0 draw against Huddersfield Town last midweek, since climbing to 17th.
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Although this is still nowhere near the position the Blues would ideally want to be in after a reasonably strong start to the 2021/22 campaign, they are just four points adrift of the top half of the table and still have plenty of time in the season to make amends and climb up to a much-improved position compared to the previous five years.
They will face a tough task though with tomorrow’s opponents Middlesbrough winning their past three games under Neil Warnock, keeping three clean sheets in all three and scoring six in the process.
Those three recent opponents, Peterborough United, Barnsley and Cardiff City, are all arguably weaker than Lee Bowyer’s side at this moment in time – so it will be a difficult task for both sides to take on tomorrow on Teesside.
Ahead of this clash, we’re predicting the starting lineup Bowyer will go with as they travel up to Boro.
With one injury worry and the Blues’ win over Swansea last weekend, just the two changes have been made to their starting lineup.
Matija Sarkic remains in goal despite Neil Etheridge’s presence on the bench – and will continue between the sticks until his performance levels drop off. Other than an injury or suspension, there are no other reasons why the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee shouldn’t continue as the club’s first choice.
The familiar three of George Friend, Marc Roberts and Dion Sanderson start again, keeping Harlee Dean out of the starting 11 for another game. Stability at the back is needed after trying to tighten up in recent weeks, so Bowyer shouldn’t be reintroducing Dean into his lineup just yet.
The wing-backs also remain the same in Maxime Colin’s absence, with the Frenchman set to be out for at least a few weeks. One man who has returned to the fold is Jeremie Bela, but he should take his place on the bench before being given a chance to re-enter the fray.
In other injury news, Ivan Sunjic is a huge doubt for this game and hasn’t trained all week, so Ryan Woods will come in after waiting patiently for his place and will line up alongside Gary Gardner. Woods looks like a very shrewd summer signing, so he’s unlikely to let the Blues down this weekend if he does start as suspected.
One more change comes in a more advanced position, with Scott Hogan making way for Riley McGree who scored the late winner against Swansea. Birmingham need game-changers like him in their starting 11, so he has to come in alongside talented Manchester United loanee Tahith Chong.
This leaves Troy Deeney as their man up top after also scoring last Saturday, although it would be good to see Bowyer utilise two up top in the long term because of the strength they have up top.
Deeney, Hogan, Chuks Aneke and Lukas Jutkiewicz are arguably all worthy of starting in the Championship, so not playing two up top in the future would almost seem like a waste.
Let’s not forget all four have permanent contracts at St Andrew’s, so it’s not as though they will see one or two go back to a parent club at the end of the season. This is a dilemma Bowyer needs to consider.