Birmingham will host 4th place and arguably, one of the dark horses of the play off pack, Leeds United on Friday night. For consecutive games, Blues will be in front of the cameras as the game features on Sky Sports 1 for a 7:45 kick off.
Gary Monk’s side should be up for the occasion as they chase down poll position for the playoffs, as well as seeking revenge for the 2-1 defeat at Elland Road at the start of this season, inflicted by goals from Jacques Maghoma and Michael Morrison.
They arrive with plenty of goals behind them, finding the net 46 times with almost half coming from former favourite at St.Andrews, Chris Wood. The kiwi striker was part of the unforgettable Europa League campaign in the season of 2011/2012. With 23 goals to his name already, and only Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle matching his 20 in the league, he is a considerable opponent for the defence to deal with and will no doubt be looking forward to return.
After it all falling into place in the last game, Zola has finally found a system that works and provides a defensive base to build from. A back three composed all of central defenders, as well as wing backs allowed for the foundations to build offensive work on. This time around the players will know they can stay compact in this way whilst providing support to whoever is up top through the diamond midfield.
Che Adams was the man tasked with the lone forward role in that game and with Donaldson not returning to training until next week and Jutkiewicz only returning to training this week, the selfless running and shift he put in will warrant a place in the starting eleven. At the other end of the pitch, Paul Robinson will be looking to face his former club as the card he picks up against Wolves was rescinded earlier in the week. Jacques Maghoma and Jonathan Grounds are both in contention as they also returned to training this week. However, Clayton Donaldson remains out till as he looks to return to training next week whilst Michael Morrison is still out for a couple of weeks following groin surgery.
For Leeds, full back Charlie Taylor is hopeful to be fit to play. Lewis Coyle & Tyler Denton however will be out with foot and knee injuries respectively.
Ultimately, it will be a case of more elf the same if Blues are to record their first back to back wins under Zola. The grit, learning to play without the ball and grabbing the chances when they come, earned the three points before. The players will do very well to take this into the game.
I expect Blues to be up for the test after last weeks derby, not based solely on the three points, but more the tenacity showed and never say die attitude all of the players put on display to rightfully, earn an unlikely Zola way of winning games. Perhaps a response from the win will install the fans not convinced by Zola with more faith and belief in his system that looks set to be at last, working.