Bet of the Day: Birmingham to beat Middlesbrough in Friday’s Championship game

14th September 2021

This evening’s Championship action brings together two sides who have Premier League football in their relatively recent past, but at this moment show little sign of having it in their future. Birmingham, in 14th place and under the caretaker management of Pep Clotet since Garry Monk was fired, welcome Middlesbrough to St Andrews. The Teessiders are still looking for their first away league win under Jonathan Woodgate, who will himself be glancing anxiously towards the exit door with his side just two places above the relegation zone.

It’s important to note that, while both sides may be struggling for form at the moment, there is still less than a quarter of the season gone. For reference, at this point in the 2018/19 season, Aston Villa were – numerically as well as pretty much geographically – where Birmingham are right now. If the Blues can find their groove, a process they could start with a win in this seemingly favourable game, then who knows where they could be come May? They’ll need a new manager and probably some decent signings, but there’s a club just a few miles away that knows how to make those changes.

Attacks lacking real punch

The major problem for both of these sides at this point in the season is that they’re struggling to really lift off in an attacking sense. Of the two teams, Boro have scored more often this season, in that they’ve got ten in ten games. Birmingham have just nine; for reference, Alex Mitrovic of Fulham has seven all by himself. Both teams come into the game with leading strikers on three for the season. Lukas Jutkiewicz and Britt Assombalonga need to be finding the net more regularly, but they also need a bit more support from the players lined up behind them if either of these sides is to see an uptick in their league position.

It’s not something we see happening overnight for either side – and particularly not over this night. These are not sides built for fine, flowing football and, although we can see the Blues emerging with the three points, they won’t come without an attritional battle. The odds of 16/5 on offer from 888 for this being a game where the sides are level at half time, but the hosts eventually win, look like pretty decent value to us. We don’t want to say this game has “1-0 with the goal coming from a scrappy 73rd-minute deflection” written all over it, but at the same time, it really does.

Boro shocking on their travels

The last time Middlesbrough won away from home in the league was a 2-1 win over Rotherham United, and the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Rotherham no longer play in the Championship. That’s because they were relegated last May, and Boro’s victory came on the final day of last season. Since then, draws at Luton and Bristol City and defeats at the hands of Cardiff and Blackburn have ensured two points from a possible twelve on their travels for Woodgate & co., although in truth, a 4-1 tonking by Sheffield Wednesday showed they’re not exactly Barcelona when on home soil.

There is every reason, then, for Birmingham to be confident of picking up the points here. Well, aside from their misfiring attack – but even that has a bright spot within it. Youth academy graduate Jude Bellingham has already scored twice for the first team, and is yet to celebrate his 17th birthday. The Stourbridge lad is coveted by no less a footballing power than Bayern Munich, and will start tonight – he’s 4/1 with Betway to get on the scoresheet at any time, and more than capable of doing just that.

A win for the home side, but without much fanfare

Without major squad surgery, you have to feel that these sides will be happy to end the season in mid-table and avoid a spring fling with relegation. Nonetheless, there is many a team that could have fitted that description over the years and yet ended up starting the following season in the Premier League – at this stage of the season, each match is a potential launchpad for the kind of run that can turn an also-ran into a promotion hopeful.

Woodgate is a novice manager, and as of this moment he is yet to hit on that tactical switch that will turn a very ordinary Boro side into something more. In particular, he needs to find a way to make his side compete on their travels, and at the moment it needs to start with keeping a clean sheet on the road – something they haven’t done all season. It’s for this reason that we see Birmingham coming out of this encounter with a 1-0 win. That’s priced at 11/2 by William Hill, and it’s likely that one of these sides will win by the odd goal. It’s just slightly more likely that that side will be Birmingham.

Bets of the Day

Birmingham to win 1-0 (William Hill, 11/2); Jude Bellingham to score anytime (Betway, 4/1); Draw/Birmingham HT/FT (888, 16/5)

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