VINCE BLISSETT (@Vince_RFC) takes a look at Friday night’s live Championship encounter between Birmingham and Leeds.
Birmingham v Leeds | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Birmingham v Leeds is the live Championship offering this Friday night. My first thought when seeing the schedule was to ask myself what we have done to deserve the Blues gracing our screens for the second week in a row?
Last week I incorrectly opposed them as they travelled to Molineux but I see no reason to change tact this time around.
Blues won that game at Wolves last week, just their second success in 15 attempts under Gianfranco Zola. Unfortunately for the Italian, it wasn’t really anything to do with how well they played – more how bad Wolves were.
There are a couple of things I’ve taken from that game to take into consideration for this one. Firstly, the amount of silly free kicks Birmingham gave away around the penalty box and secondly Wolves’ inability to find the target.
The Blues conceded 19 attempts to Wolves who contrived to find the target with just two, of which 11 came from set-pieces. Birmingham have conceded 19 goals from set-pieces this season, a whopping 48.7% of their goals against total, which are both league highs.
The view from the opposite end of that is only three sides have scored fewer goals from set-pieces than Wolves so maybe it’s not too surprising they couldn’t make Birmingham pay. The flip side being three clubs have scored more goals from dead-ball situations than Leeds (16), which equates to 38.8% of their goals.
In truth Wolves should of created a lot more than eight chances from open play; they really had Birmingham on the back foot for long periods, especially when Paul Robinson saw his marching orders early in the second-half.
I’ve no doubt better teams in terms of quality and confidence would have made Blues pay and the talk of Zola being on the brink would have very loud this week.
One such team is Leeds, arriving off of a huge win last week against fellow play-off contenders Sheffield Wednesday which elevated United into fourth.
Chris Wood scored the only goal last week and is up to 20 league goals – that’s four times more than anyone else in the Leeds squad. He’s a man in form and if Birmingham want to get anything out of the game they’ll have to keep him quiet.
Garry Monk serves a one-game touchline ban for his part in the altercation with David Wagner a few weeks ago but I don’t see that as something that makes too much of a difference. Injury-wise Charlie Taylor is back in contention but other than that they should line-up as they did last time out.
Robinson had his red card rescinded in the week and is set to keep his spot in the Birmingham defence. Jonathon Grounds and Lukas Jutkiewicz are both back in training and contention with the latter especially being a big boost if he’s able to lead the line.
The betting angles
Leeds are built on a solid defence at home keeping nine clean sheets but their away form is a different story. Eight of their last nine road trips have seen Both Teams To Score and six of those fixtures have featured Over 2.5 Goals but I can’t trust goals to be aplenty when Birmingham are involved.
Instead I’m going to keep it simple and back a Leeds win at a nice 6/4 (BetVictor). If Birmingham carry on from last week and keep giving away free-kicks Leeds could make them pay and I’ve talked myself into having a small stake on Pontus Jansson to score anytime at 12/1 (888).
The 6’4” centre back has become a bit of a cult hero at Elland Road and has three goals to his name this season, all arriving from corners.