The biggest issue for Birmingham City and West Brom is that their sides are so settled, the Christmas period might well see them drop off their intensity as they come up against sides who are happier without the ball.
Both made significant changes midweek and came unstuck against Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic respectively.
With fixtures coming thick and fast, this kind of tinkering is mandatory, yet problematic. It’s probably the downside of playing well – managers not wanting to change too much as they feel they’re both approaching where they want to be style-wise.
This is what makes this particular tie so fascinating – one of these will have to overcome major obstacles to pick up a win here. Either that, or a moment of magic. But who’s likely to land it?
West Brom to Win – 4/5
Given the sheer amount of firepower available to Slaven Bilic and his backroom staff, you think, even in a tight-knit affair, they’d be the ones to bag the goal.
Birmingham’s back four has taken a bit of a hit in recent weeks with Clarke-Salter taking a bad knock before Harlee Dean was sent off for his part in an altercation in Cardiff.
They might be settling back into stride, but the defence that likely line out against the Baggies probably won’t have played together in six weeks and that’s a real problem for a team facing a team of West Brom’s quality.
That, and the fact Conall Trueman is in goals for Birmingham means you expect an error out of the youngster sooner rather than later. He has that youthful shot-stopping ability that most possess, but he’s probably just shy of the confidence to come and collect crosses – and given how good West Brom are with deliveries, this could spell trouble.
Lukas Jutkiewicz to score anytime – 11/4
The one thing Lukas Jutkiewicz offers is a headache to opposing centre-halves. There’s almost no point contesting a header with the big man, nor is there much hope in letting him control on his chest as he’s excellent with both.
But even taking away the idea he’s got those traits, he’s almost certainly going to start this weekend having been dropped two weeks in a row – presumably because both Roberts and Dean would be too tempted to knock it long every time they got on the ball.
Dropping him for poor form is one thing, but the idea that he’s now a secondary option will annoy him – and he’s always played his best football when he’s wound up.
West Brom to Score 3 or more goals – 3/1
Birmingham play far too open at home and their intelligence in midfield here will carve Birmingham apart.
Sunjic has been a terrific addition for the Blues, but he’s usually sat near Fran Villalba and Dan Crowley who dribble consistently.
If they attempt the less-than-safe passes that they have done in the past, it could end in disaster.
They’ve gotten away with against the smaller sides – but that won’t be the case whatsoever against this finely-tuned side hunting promotion.
* All odds correct at time of posting.