Birmingham City got their pre-season campaign underway on Thursday with a 1-1 draw with Portuguese second-tier side Cova de Piedade as part of the Torneio Internacional Do Sado in Setubal.
After Pep Clotet’s side took the lead with a 36th-minute header from Marc Roberts, a stoppage-time equaliser denied Clotet victory in his first game as interim Birmingham manager, before the Midlands side suffered a 4-3 defeat on penalties, with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jude Bellingham missing from the spot for the Blues.
Here, we take a look at three things that we learned from the match, as Birmingham look to get back up to speed for the new season.
A new formation for a new manager
Having employed a 4-4-2 formation last season under Garry Monk, it seems that with Clotet in charge and following the departure of Che Adams, it seems the Blues will be taking a different approach for next season.
Under Clotet, Birmingham have been training in a 3-4-2-1 formation throughout pre-season, and it was that setup they employed against their Portuguese opposition on Thursday evening.
It is one that should offer Birmingham more flexibility over the course of the season, with the wide midfielders able to drop back into full-back roles, allowing them to contribute in more areas of the pitch.
At the other end of the pitch meanwhile, it now appears that Jutkiewicz could be playing in more of a lone striker role in the coming campaign, following the sale of his strike partner, further increasing the pressure on the 30-year-old.
A new chance for Kerim Mrabti
Following his move from Swedish side Djurgarden in January, it was a difficult first few months at St Andrew’s for Mrabti.
The winger completed 90 minutes just twice in the league for the Blues during that second half of the campaign, and with his contract set to expire at the end of next season, the pressure is already on for him secure an extended stay at the club, though it appears he has started that task promisingly.
It was Mrabti’s corner that provided the assist for Birmingham’s opening goal, and that will have put right at the forefront of Clotet’s mind going forward.
With Connor Mahoney now moving to Millwall following his loan spell with Birmingham last season, the Midlands side will be looking for a new face to provide a threat from out wide, and it seems as though Mrabti has just put on a promising first audition for that role.
Plenty to fine-tune
Coming away from this game, Clotet will be aware there is still much to work on between now and the start of the season.
Despite dominating the game, failing to kill it off will have been a frustration, as will the lapse in concentration that allowed their Portuguese opponents to steal a late equaliser, while the missed penalties in the shoot out are unlikely to have gone unnoticed.
That, however, is what pre-season is for, and with a few weeks still to go until the start of the new campaign, Clotet will now know more about what he has to address with his side in their next few friendlies before they return to competitive action at the start of August.