FOOTBALL journalist Adam Goodwin (@AGJournalism) shares his verdict on Sunday's eagerlery-anticipated Second City derby as Aston Villa welcome Birmingham to Villa Park.
Aston Villa v Birmingham | Sunday 25th November 2018, 12:00 | Sky Sports
We’re treated to arguably the biggest derby in the Championship on Sunday lunchtime, as Dean Smith’s Aston Villa take on Garry Monk’s Birmingham at Villa Park.
Villa have had a resurgence under Dean Smith, since he took over in October. They might’ve lost two of his five games in charge, but their 3-0 victory over Derby before the international break showed how much potential this Villa side have improved.
Their record in this fixture in the last decade or so has been superb, and they’re unbeaten against the Blues in their last 12 games against them. When these two met at Villa Park last year, the home side won 2-0, but that was against a Birmingham side lacking in confidence and quality.
There was a couple of huge injury blows dealt to Villa during the international break, as both James Chester and John McGinn picked up injuries. Both will be touch-and-go right up until kick-off but having neither of them fully-fit is a real kick in the teeth for Smith.
It means that Mile Jedinak could slot in at centre-back, and he’s looked far from convincing when playing there in the past.
Villa have W4-D3-L1 at home this season, which isn’t a bad record, and they’ve only conceded 10 goals at Villa Park this campaign. But Both Teams To Score has landed in 12/17 (71%) of their league games this season, and I can see that trend continuing with a beleaguered defensive line.
Birmingham are currently level on points with their Second City rivals, and after a poor start to the season, they seemed to have turned things around of late.
After starting the season without a win in eight games (W0-D6-L2), they’ve lost just once in their last nine (W5-D3-L1). They’ve had the joint most draws in the league, and if they could’ve turned a few of those draws into wins, they’d be sitting in the play-off spots.
Garry Monk will be hoping for a similar derby result to the one he had in his first ever game in management, when his Swansea side beat Cardiff 3-0 back in February 2014. He’s also got a very good record against Aston Villa, and has won all four games against Aston Villa as a manager.
The Blues only scored in one of their first four away games but, since then, have found their shooting boots on the road. They’ve scored five goals in their last five away games, in games against Leeds, Brentford, Stoke and Derby.
It was interesting to read both manager’s comments before this game, and they both seemed to have taken a very different approach when talking to the media.
In his pre-match press conference, Dean Smith said: “I’m not obsessed with beating Birmingham City, I’m obsessed with winning every game.” As an Aston Villa fan, Smith would undoubtedly love to win this game, but I think the fans, and perhaps the players, would’ve like to hear that before this huge clash.
Garry Monk, however, said: “The first day I arrived at the club I was reminded about the Aston Villa game, which was eight-nine months ago. It’s constant.
“Don’t worry, we know fully what it means. I’m under no illusions. We want to go there and give it our best, wear that shirt, make our fans proud.”
These are the sort of comments you want to hear before a big derby game, but whether this will make a difference on matchday, we’ll have to see.
The betting angle
I fancy a couple of different bets for this game, and I like Birmingham to get something. They’ve got nothing to lose here, and I think they can attack a Villa defence that could contain Alan Hutton, Axel Tuanzebe, Mile Jedinak and Neil Taylor – eek.
I like the look of Both Teams To Score at 10/11 with Betfred, due to Villa’s injury problems and Birmingham’s good goalscoring record away from home of late.
And I really like the look of Both Teams To Score and draw, which is 4/1, also with Betfred. Birmingham have had the most draws in the league this season and I think they’ll be able to grab a point from an Aston Villa side missing some key players on Sunday.