The Sky Bet Championship weekend has been decimated by teams making it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup but there is still a match to enjoy on Friday evening when Birmingham City welcome Sheffield United to St Andrew’s.
This is a key match for both sides. Birmingham are steadily sliding towards the relegation zone and need a result to halt that decline while Sheffield United will be looking to move to within three points of the play-offs and still have a bunch of games in hand.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football channels with the build-up beginning at 7pm and kick off coming at 7.45pm.
After a good start to the season for Birmingham City, things have gone a little south for Birmingham, so much so that they go into this match with just one win in their last nine matches and that was only against Barnsley against whom a win has been par for the course recently. They have failed to beat the other two sides in the bottom three in this run and might still be reeling from letting a two goal lead slip at Derby on Sunday.
The big problem that Lee Bowyer needs to address is the amount of goals his side are conceding. They have shipped 20 goals in their last eight matches and that is not a sustainable approach if they want to avoid their slide down the table. The plus side for the Blues is that they are finding the net and have added firepower to their ranks towards the end of the transfer window so if they can work on their defensive issues then they should be fairly comfortable this term.
The season has gone the other way for Sheffield United. The Blades really struggled under Slavisa Jokanovic in the initial part of it but since they made the switch in the head coaching position they have gone from strength to strength. They have won six of their last eight matches and only lost one of those so they are currently one of the form sides in the division and are flying up the table. They can move into the top 10 with a win here too which shows how their second part of the season has gone.
Earlier in the season scoring goals was a problem for Sheffield United so it will please them a lot that they have found the bet on two or more occasions in five of their last seven matches. They have generally always been pretty good defensively with the formation that they play so when the Blades are finding the net freely they are a tough proposition to deal with. Sheffield United have won four of their last six on the road too so being away from Bramall Lane appears to be no obstacle to them.
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Birmingham City midfielder Gary Gardner is an injury doubt for this match although he is expected to feature. Tahith Chong is expected back into training on Monday so this game comes too soon while Troy Deeney is also out.
Sheffield United will be without Rhian Brewster for this match as he picked up a serious hamstring injury. New signing Charlie Goode could make his debut in the heart of the defence. David McGoldrick could be involved from the start.
I think the big difference in this match will be between the two defences. Birmingham City are conceding at will at the minute whereas five of the last six Sheffield United wins have been without them conceding. Birmingham do score plenty of goals but they tend to do it with an aerial threat but I would be surprised if they get much joy in the air against a Sheffield United defence which is perfectly equipped to deal with such a bombardment.
The interesting side note to this match is the planned protest by Birmingham City supporters with the match on television. That is a sign of the unrest in the terraces at the minute and would suggest that events on the pitch are secondary at present. That certainly isn’t the case for Sheffield United who had a good end to the transfer window and will be looking to push on from here. I expect the Blades to be the sixth team to leave this part of the second city with the three points.
Back Sheffield United to beat Birmingham City for a 3/10 stake at 2.05 with Betway