Not a lot of people get too excited by the prospect of Swansea being at home to Birmingham, but I am a Birmingham fan and won’t try to hide that.
If you think bias will come into play here, I assure you it won’t – I’m considerably more confident that Brum will lose this tie than take anything from it. But it does give me an edge in offering some goalscorer bets in areas where Birmingham are particularly weak or particularly strong. Consider this pre-game therapy for me.
Bersant Celina – Anytime Goalscorer (13/5)
Birmingham opted to employ a back three in their opening away game of the season at Brentford, with Kristian Pederson filling into the left side, but went 4-2-3-1 in their last away game at Nottingham Forest. It got them a bit more of the ball, but they were tanked three-nil for their efforts.
New Blues boss Pep Clotet likes to switch around the shape, depending on the game at hand. Swansea overload the left side, and if Maxime Colin is out again like he’s expected to be, that should see Wes Haring retain his right-back/right-wing-back spot.
Harding is good on the ball, but a liability off it.
In Swansea’s previous home game, Borja Baston dropped into a false nine to allow runners beyond him, and the damage was mainly done through Celina, Dyer and Byers. If Swansea have done their homework, they’ll do similar to draw out Marc Roberts, and Celina will have a field day while Harding ball watches as he did against Bristol City.
Fran Villalba – Anytime Goalscorer (4/1)
If Clotet goes 4-1-4-1 to give Harding more cover from Gardner playing out on the right side, Birmingham’s key threats will come from the supporting runs off the ball while Crowley is in possession.
This likely comes in the shape of Fran Villalba who can benefit from any pullbacks on the edge of the box, too. While going long off Jutkiewicz will be the direct route on the ball, there’s not a chance Birmingham are scoring from any passages of play other than in transition after Swansea have lost the ball.
He’s also a ball carrier with a very good shot – which is typically the scenario any attacking side will find themselves in away to Swansea. Defenders backing off in a three-v-three. This interests me greatly, Mr Villalba.
Marc Roberts – Anytime Goalscorer (17/1)
You have to close on a big price. It’s the nature of these pieces. The one edge Birmingham have on Swansea here is the physicality. In terms of their set-piece analysis, Birmingham typically throw the ball in central areas because they’re taller than most teams.
There’s never any near post flicks or back post sticks – it’s dead centre all the time. Dan Crowley likes to float them, too. It usually lends itself to Roberts, who’s superb in the air, just not with his feet – attacking against man-marking systems like Swansea’s. Presumably, Mike van der Hoorn will pick him up, but he’s smaller than him and doesn’t have as good a leap.