We take a look at Sunday's EFL Championship game between Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
While the season starts now for Birmingham City. And what a time and occasion for it to begin. Harry Redknapp - no stranger to the managerial merry-go-round - has found himself in charge of a Birmingham side in a downward spiral. His quest to keep them in the Championship takes him directly into one of the biggest derbies in English football. This battle of the Midlands would probably only have the season finale of Peaky Blinders to contend with in terms of importance to the region. Once a proud battle between huge Premier League sides, this battle now has been reduced to the less grand but equally important confines of the Championship.
Aston Villa v Birmingham | Sunday 23 April | Villa Park | 13:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Aston Villa 9/10 | Draw 47/20 | Birmingham 29/10
Steve Bruce’s side have managed to steer away from a potentially embarrassing brush with further relegation troubles. Their loss to Fulham, however, managed to distill many of the issues that have blighted the Midlands side into one game. Furthermore, they have now lost star striker Jonathan Kodjia to a brain-dead red-card that will likely see him suspended for the rest of the season. Sitting on 19 goals for the season, Kodjia was set to become the first man since Peter With to score 20 goals for the Villains in a single season.
His absence will likely see Leandro Bacuna come into the side as a result of their extensive injury list. Bacuna and Amavi will likely play in wider areas while Scott Hogan plays through the middle. Mile Jedinak should be in for a titanic battle with Cheick Keita in the heart of the field - exacerbated by the hostile derby atmosphere. They also need more from Jach Grealish. Optimistically touted as the next Jack Wilshire, he has yet to fully realise his obvious potential, even if he looks cool with really short socks.
The termination of beleaguered manager Gianfranco Zola and subsequent acquisition of journeyman ‘wheeler and dealer’ Harry Redknapp will likely give the Blues some hope of a late-season revival. They will no doubt go in with Adam Degzdins after another shocking performance by Tomasz Kuscczak last weekend. Johnathan Grounds did alright in the middle of defence and may well continue.
Top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz had a bit of shocker against Burton, missing a gilt-edged opportunity in the opening salvo that would have completely change the complexion of the game. Che Adams was a persistent threat and will look to get at a Villa defence that has looked flat-footed for much of the season. Chester and Baker haven’t grown as a partnership and Jutkiewicz will look to exploit that.
Verdict: Birmingham 29/10
If there ever was a case of the price being right, this is it. Redknapp has had that Midas touch before and will clearly be an extreme motivational tool. Villa have their star striker absent and a derby such as this usually renders home form irrelevant.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets.