CHAMPIONSHIP specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) shares his verdict from Friday's contest between Burton and Birmingham.
Burton v Birmingham | Friday 18th August 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Burton started the Championship season as relegation favourites and on the evidence of the first three games, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
The Brewers did a tremendous job last season in just surviving but it’d be a miracle if they managed to repeat the feat this time around. Feel free to save that and use it against me come May.
As a group, the three teams to come up from League One are better than the relegated trio from last term and pretty much every second-tier side has improved over the summer.
Burton shopping in the bargain bin
That would be everyone except Burton, for who just being at this level seems to be above their ceiling. Nigel Clough has been pretty savvy in the transfer market since gaining promotion, using the loan system and free agency to bring in experienced Championship players.
Albion did spent relatively big money on Liam Boyce, who signed for around £500,000 but it already hasn’t worked out unfortunately. Last season’s Scottish Premiership top scorer suffered a knee injury in pre-season and is out for most of the campaign.
The season has started badly with defeats to Cardiff, Hull and Middlesbrough but it’s in the attacking third where it seems the problems lie. They’ve had just 12 shots in those games and only two were on-target.
In fact over those games the total cumulative xG total is a lowly 0.63. OK, the fixture list hasn’t been kind but more output is needed.
Clough has come out and said after both the Hull and Boro games that the performances have been good but I suspect that’s more about saying the right thing to keep confidence up, than the truth.
Blues need to improve
Opponents Birmingham haven’t been performing all that much better although have picked up a few points. An opening day defeat at Ipswich was followed by an undeserved win over Bristol City and in midweek they played out a dull 0-0 with Bolton.
There isn’t much I find myself able to say about the Blues; they’re almost exactly what you expect from a Harry Redknapp side, a bit meh.
Birmingham’s options are thin
One thing they do have is a lack of defenders available.
Ryan Shotton is off to Middlesbrough as soon as a replacement is found. He had to come off the bench to replace the injured Michael Morrison against Bolton and could be forced into starting here – that’s if his wife doesn’t go into labour first.
At the other end there’s also a lack of attacking players available to ‘Arry who’s been vocal about his frustration in the transfer market.
The betting angle
On paper this looks like one of those games that will either be a dull affair between two poor teams or a thriller as both throw caution to the wind. I can’t help but side with the logic and stats though.
There’s no value to be had in Under 2.5 Goals at 8/13 but ticking ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score market is generous enough at 10/11 (BetVictor).
BTTS has banked in just one of each teams’ three leagues games thus far. Also, Redknapp’s three fixtures in charge at the end of last season all failed to provide profit for Both Teams To Score punters, with largely the same squad.
Burton were scoring and conceding a fair few at the end of 2016/17 but the stats from the last few weeks make that irrelevant.
A dull Friday night with ‘Arry longing for the game to end as he was on Tuesday, will do for me.
Burton v Birmingham – Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (10/11 BetVictor)