Birmingham host Middlesbrough tonight and it could be another battle of attrition for the Blues, with five of their ten Championship fixtures so far being decided by a one-goal margin.
Pep Clotet had a fairly good start to life at St Andrew’s with 13 points from six games but has now lost three games on the bounce, and unless they improve going forward their slide down the table could continue.
The Spaniard has often varied his formation choice but his preference for a defensive style has arguably held the Blues back, with only nine goals scored in ten games, so a switch back to 4-4-2 could be the way forward.
Here is how Birmingham could line up at St Andrew’s tonight.
Boro have looked shaky at the back on occasion with 14 goals conceded and playing with pace and intent could lift the home crowd, making it a difficult atmosphere for Jonathan Woodgate’s men to play in.
The only concern Clotet may have is Middlesbrough’s preference to play possession football, and therefore his side could lose out in the midfield battle. Gary Gardner particularly has struggled in regard to making interceptions, with an average of 0.3 per game.
However, what the Blues lose in the middle they make up for with two up front, and Lukas Jutkiewicz and Alvaro Gimenez need to start together in order to build-up an understanding which is yet to come to fruition, with only one goal for the Spaniard.
Villalba took his place against Wigan but failed to make a successful dribble in the match, and his three examples of bad control led attacks to break down, so the front two didn’t get the service they require.
Bellingham, by contrast, could have some joy using his pace against George Friend, and if Blues can keep things tight at the back they have a chance of getting back to winning ways.
Marc Roberts’ return to the side should also help in that aspect as Birmingham have only conceded nine goals in the eight league games the 6 foot 4 colossus has played, and that could be pivotal in keeping a lid on Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher in order to secure a win.