Swansea v Birmingham: Celina set to give Brum the blues

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Sunday's showdown between Swansea and Birmingham at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea v Birmingham | Sunday 25th April 2019, 12:00 | Sky Sports

Swansea and Birmingham take to the field on Sunday having experienced victories on Wednesday night. Swansea had a fine away day in the Capital to defeat Queens Park Rangers 3-1; maintaining their unbeaten start to the campaign, whilst Birmingham grabbed their first home win over promoted Barnsley.

Life under Steve Cooper has certainly proved to be a more than smooth transition if the opening weeks of the season are anything to go by. They enter this weekend’s round of fixtures as one of only four unbeaten Championship clubs, and also one of four to have won three matches so far. The question is, can they keep this up? There’s no reason why that can’t be the case.

Cooper does seem to be working with quite a small squad at the Liberty Stadium this season. Certainly in comparison to recent seasons. So much so, getting the likes of Borja Baston and Andre Ayew back in the mix after loan spells away seem something like new signings, and has given the place a bit of a lift. The club probably needed it after unexpectedly losing Graham Potter to Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer.

Cooper was appointed with some perhaps questioning the move, but not anymore. Of course, they will lose games eventually, but for now we should run with them, and having an extra day instead of playing this on Saturday will certainly help this small squad.

Birmingham have a former Swan at their helm in the form of Pep Clotet, and he has been tinkering away in recent weeks looking to get the team playing as he’d like. They have experienced some expected teething problems as they look to get used to a new set of systems, tactics and methods, but sitting 8th after four games isn’t so bad at all.

I’m not surprised at all that their opening record reads two wins, one draw and one defeat. Whilst that is the Championship in a nutshell, I do expect the Blues to be a bit up-and-down, certainly in the first few months of the season. It really is quite a drastic change in what they are adopting, and if they can achieve it whilst gaining some positive results, then they could be a shock play-off contender post-Christmas.

Having said that, I do think Swansea are who we’re going to keep on side with this weekend. They just have some real momentum right now, and are playing a brand of football which this club has been accustomed to churning out for a number of years now.

We are still very much in the Cooper honeymoon period, and tougher times will arrive at some point, but for now they look to be on the real crest of a wave. I expect them to lose very few games at the Liberty this season. Birmingham, as I mentioned, I fear will be a little inconsistent for us to expect them to win this, say in the lucky manner they beat Brentford in on the opening day.

Swansea -1 Asian Handicap at 47/50 (Bet365) is a very good selection for us to get our teeth into. They’ve scored three goals for three games running, whilst Birmingham, who although won 2-0 last time out, aren’t creating as many chances, and they will be second best in possession in this one.

A second and final bet I like the look at is Swansea attacking midfielder Bersant Celina to find the back of the net, especially at a price of 10/3 (Betfair). He has one goal to his name so far in the league, but this has come from 11 shots on goal, the most of any Swansea player so far. He is very much one to fire a shot away whenever presented the opportunity, and tactically this game could suit him quite well.

Birmingham will get bodies behind the ball at times, and Celina is prone to a shot from distance, especially as nine of those 11 attempts have indeed arrived from outside the penalty area. The 22-year-old actually only got five league goals last season, and he’ll be eager to reach double figures at the very least. It certainly won’t be for the want of trying.

Best Bets

Swansea v Birmingham – Swansea -1 Asian Handicap (47/50 Bet365)

Swansea v Birmingham – Bersant Celina to score at anytime (10/3 Betfair)

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