A few weeks ago, I was anticipating the second city derby with excitement and expectation. That is slowly being replaced by nervousness and apprehension.
This isn’t my usual pessimistic nature but a natural human emotion ahead of derby day… isn’t it?!
Admittedly, Blues’ abject performance at Hull last weekend – coupled with the return to fitness of Villa’s Jack Grealish and the ineligibility of Gary Gardner – hasn’t helped ease the edginess that is creeping in.
At the KCOM Stadium, Blues were under par in every department. Performances of that nature are out of character for Garry Monk’s Birmingham City so criticism of the players, who have undoubtedly overachieved this season, doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
With Grealish’s return to fitness coinciding with Villa’s return to winning ways, confidence will be increasing in B6 and I make them slight favourites for the game.
My previous assertion of Blues’ overachievement is matched in equal measure by Villa’s underachivement. By all accounts, sitting in 8th place represents a solid season of progress for Blues – even more so when a transfer embargo is chucked into the mix – whereas Witton are scowling in 11th, six points off the play-off places.
The feeling is that Monk’s troops have peaked this term. Yes, they’re still more than capable of putting in good performances and picking up results, as they did at Bristol City. But for every competent display, there lies in wait a Bolton-like head scratcher.
Dean Smith’s squad has found consistency hard to come by. Defensively, they’ve been awful and while there is a definite belief that they can be got at, there’s also an assumption that they will click sooner or later, such is their rich array of attacking talent.
Villa setting up to attack will suit Blues who look much more of a threat on the counter. Blues have often hit brick walls when attempting to dictate play against a stubborn defensive system.
Blues’ last league success against the enemy came in March 2005 – 14 years ago. Saying the next one is due is an understatement of epic proportions but fate will have no part to play in Sunday’s showdown.