It’s fair to say that it’s been a difficult season for Birmingham in many respects. After losing Chris Houghton to Norwich in the summer – who led them to the play-offs in his only season as manager – the Blues put their faith in Lee Clark but things have not worked out as they both would have hoped. Financial difficulties saw them lose key players without being able to bring in the quality of player need to replicate their form of last season. Instead, they have struggled for consistency and lurched around the lower reaches of the Championship for much of the season. They’re four points and six places above the relegation zone but to their credit, the pressure does not seem to be affecting them too much as they are enjoying their longest unbeaten run of the season – a total of five matches.
Watford have been one of the surprise packages of the Championship this season after so much turnover (previously touched on in this column) over the summer. Gianfranco Zola had a point to prove in terms of managing in this country after an ill-fated spell in charge of West Ham but he’s certainly proving his worth at Vicarage Road. His Watford side have played some of the best football in the country this season and they are reaping the rewards. Currently in fourth position, level on points with third placed Leicester, the Hornets are seven points clear of seventh placed Brighton but their eyes will be fixed on upwards rather then what’s below them, as documented with six wins in their last eight.
If it wasn’t for Marlon King, Birmingham would be in far more serious trouble than their current predicament. King has managed 13 goals for his side which is a more than decent return considering they are closer to the bottom of the table than the top. What will be heartening for Clark is that others have stepped up to the plate in their recent good run as King has only managed one goal in his last seven league games which takes some of the burden of the veteran striker.
Zola has no such problems with his Watford side the Championship’s top scorers with 60 goals already. It’s an average of just below two goals every game which is incredible firepower. Matej Vydra is the obvious starting point with 19 goals this season but they have threats all over the park which is evidenced by 13 players all have scored at least once in the league. The partnership between Vydra and Troy Deeney is also the most potent strike force in the league with the two having combined for 31 goals.
Watford surrendered a two goal lead at home to Crystal Palace last weekend whilst Birmingham displayed resoluteness by scoring four minutes into injury time to share the spoils away to Charlton. Going for over two goals in this fixture at St Andrews would have been successful in the last three meetings and with both sides scoring goals and conceding in recent games, it’s the way to go here.
Over 2.5 goals 5/6 @ Stan James