BIRMINGHAM v MARIBOR
Europa League Group H
Thursday 15th December 2011 – Kickoff: 2005hrs
Okay, this is it – the final round of group matches are played tonight and my focus is of course on the Birmingham City/NK Maribor clash at St Andrews Thursday night with The Blues hoping to post an emphatic win and the other result to go in their favour.
Basically, the scenario is that Birmingham must win by 5 clear goals and hope that Club Brugge who host Braga in top spot lose by goal(s) to nil; the cynic in me suggests that the Club Brugge/Baraga game is a dead rubber and is almost certain to end in a draw with both sides guaranteeing their passage into the elimination rounds.
On the domestic front, Birmingham chalked up a much-needed win over second from bottom club Doncaster Rovers at the weekend which maintained their faint hopes of a play-off berth, despite going a goal down to the visitors. This win has extended their unbeaten home league record which stands at an impressive 6-3-0 13/4, and halted a run of four matches without a win in all competitions.
Which begs the question; will the real Birmingham City stand up? A punter’s nightmare at the moment (for me anyway!), and any one of three results (ie win, draw or loss) seem to be possible for Birmingham at the moment which has steered me in the direction of goals for this pick.
They must attack on Thursday night to stand any chance of qualifying from the group, and with the re-instatement of on-loan striker Chris Wood, recent results have shown that his inclusion is a must if Birmingham are to score goals or at least display attacking intent. Fellow forward Marlon King bagged a brace against Rovers and I sincerely hope manager Hughton pairs these two up front for this fixture. Attacking midfielders Chris Burke and Wade Elliott are also very important creative conduits for the two up top.
Given Maribor’s away record so far in this group (0-0-2 1/7), Blues will not get a better chance to do their bit to qualify in front of their home supporters.
Thursday’s visitors to St Andrews, Maribor, are runaway leaders in the 1.SNL and have won their last six league matches straight to extend their lead at the top to fifteen points.
This will be their last match before their domestic season takes a break and resumes again in early March 2012 for the second half of their season. They will finish bottom of Group H but will still be keen to give a good account of themselves, along with Birmingham’s propensity to shoot themselves in the foot whenever they look like they might actually be making progress!
Forward Dalibor Volas (11 goals) is their key dangerman, along with Marcos Tavares (6 goals) and midfielder Dejan Mezga (8 goals). Believe me, if there’s a way to score, Maribor will manage it, most probably on the counter as Blues should be pushing forward at every given opportunity to score goals and go out with a bang in front of their fans.
This looks like an open and shut case of Over 2.5 goals in my opinion, given the nature of the goals required by the home team; Birmingham City to win 2-1 though and miss out on qualifying.
Pick: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.93 bet365