Football – England – Championship
Saturday 15th December 2012 – Kickoff: 1500hrs
Struggling Birmingham City take on high-flying Crystal Palace at St Andrews on Saturday afternoon as the hosts look to bounce back from their derby defeat last Sunday.
Birmingham slumped to their ninth Championship defeat on Sunday when they lost at midlands rivals Wolves in a 0-1 defeat which means they remain in the places just above the relegation zone; three places and six points above Barnsley who incidentally inflicted Birmingham’s heaviest league defeat this season which does not bode well for The Blues.
Birmingham manager Lee Clark is certainly walking a tight-rope and time is running out fast for him as minimum expectations pre-season would have been a play-off place at the very least. It seems just a matter of time before he gets axed, and I just can’t see the Birmingham board being satisfied by a season of ‘consolidation’, as Blues are dangerously close to the trap-door to League One right now and this run of poor form will not be tolerated for much longer.
Just one win in their last six which was a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough, Birmingham’s home record stands at 4-2-4 12/15 and whilst they’ve lost to Barnsley, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town and Hull City, they’ve racked up wins over Peterborough, Bolton, Bristol City and Middlesbrough along with points against Charlton Athletic and Leicester City.
Birmingham’s leading scorer is Marlon King (12 goals) and he’ll for one will be keen to atone for his own-goal that resulted in the loss at Wolves, and he has Wade Elliott (3 assists) and strike partner Nikola Zigic (2 goals, 4 assists) in support roles but Chris Burke on the bench is a wasted resource, as he’s probably Birmingham’s best player at the moment.
Crystal Palace on the other hand are enjoying their best season for a long time, probably since the early Premiership days, and they currently sit in second place to leaders Cardiff City who are three points ahead of them. Palace have lost just once in their last eighteen matches and the London club have been impressive so far this season and have emerged as serious promotion candidates.
That said, they have faltered slightly away from home in recent weeks with two points dropped at Barnsley and Hull City respectively along with a defeat at Leeds United a couple of weeks ago. Crystal Palace’s away record stands at 5-2-3 12/12 and they’ve also lost at Bristol City and Middlesbrough, both teams having been beaten at today’s opponents Birmingham City!
Glenn Murray (18 goals, 2 assists) is in red-hot form at the moment and he netted again in Palace’s frustrating 2-2 draw with Blackpool at the weekend. He has assistance from Wilfred Zaha (4 goals, 3 assists) who has attracted a bid from Arsenal, Kagisho Dikgacoi (4 goals) and Owen Garvan (4 goals, 5 assists).
It’s becoming do-or-die for Birmingham City and their manager Lee Clark as their once St Andrews fortress has been breached on too many occasions this season and the patience is starting to run out; however, I’ll back Birmingham to raise their game against Palace and grab at least a point here at home with City perhaps even running out 2-1 winners. Stranger things have happened…
Pick: Birmingham City AH+0.25 @ 1.73 Pinnacle