Aitor Karanka welcomes his former team to St. Andrew’s today as Birmingham City take on Middlesbrough, with both clubs having differing fortunes so far this season.
With nearly halfway gone in the 2020/21 season, the Blues sit in 17th place whereas Neil Warnock has Boro sitting pretty in 7th position with a small squad to choose from.
Karanka lost the creativity of Jude Bellingham in the summer, but it was inevitable that the wonderkid was going to leave for pastures new, with Borussia Dortmund becoming his new home.
The Spanish manager was never going to get a war-chest to strengthen his squad, but he managed to replenish it with the funds provided, with the likes of Jonathan Leko, Ivan Sanchez and Scott Hogan bolstering the attack.
And the recent arrival of Croatian international Alen Halilovic has gotten Blues fans excited about his potential creativity, however, he’s been restricted to three appearances so far that have all come from off the bench.
With a 1-0 loss to Watford and a late collapse against Cardiff City in midweek to lose 3-2, Karanka needs to find a winning formula fast before City slip into a relegation battle, and he’s made changes to the line-up accordingly.
Kristian Pedersen returns to the squad in favour of Jake Clarke-Salter at left-back, Jeremie Bela is back in for Jonathan Leko, Hogan replaces Lucas Jutkiewicz and the engine room has been completely altered with Mikel San Jose and Adam Clayton in for Ivan Sunjic and Mikael Kieftenbeld.
So all change for Karanka and Birmingham fans look incredibly happy with the selection. Check out the best responses below.
— Gary J. Richards (@TheGJRichards) December 19, 2020
Halilovic for Toral and JCS for Robbo and would be spot on but step in right direction 👌🏻 #bcfc
— Sean Wilson (@bcfcwillo1875) December 19, 2020
this is what we needed to see at home🤩
— Callum (@CallumBeckett19) December 19, 2020
Good line up 👍
— Callum_KRO (@CallumKro) December 19, 2020
What a lineup👑
— Kian. (@KiannCaz) December 19, 2020
— Sam 洞出来 (@SamPhillips40) December 19, 2020
— Everything BCFC (@everythingbcfc) December 19, 2020
Very happy with this👌🏼 UP THE BLUES https://t.co/F9rDmrvEVv
— Todd Marshall (@toddbcfc) December 19, 2020
Unreal line-up😍 https://t.co/8TGXQYG3lE
— Jack (@BluesJack_) December 19, 2020