Bristol City and Birmingham City – two clubs with different pasts, different presents and very different immediate futures – at least if current trends are to be believed.
One is coming from a modest history but doing things the right way. Their stadium is one of the best in England and their youth structure is producing first-team stars.
They have a young manager who tries to do things the right way and they’re currently in with a chance of nipping into the playoffs – sitting in sixth, three points ahead of Preston.
Birmingham, meanwhile, are trying their subtle best to avoid another points deduction in the Championship for breaches of Financial Fair Play.
Birmingham City – the crowd who got a slap on the wrist for signing Kristian Pedersen for a couple quid when Paris Saint Germain are selling off Parisian assets to fund Mbappe’s retention bonus.
I’ve made that last bit up, but look. Best bets time.
This is a tough one. You automatically think Bristol City. But.
Neither side have tasted defeat in their last four games, and while Bristol City have indeed won each of those encounters, they’re also coming up against a Birmingham team who have finally managed to complement their key asset in Lukas Jutkiewicz, by bringing in Scott Hogan on loan from arch rivals Aston Villa.
Back-to-back wins for the Blues in all comps isn’t something they’re used to this season, but now certainly isn’t the time to play them.
They’ve also got good memories at Ashton Gate, having avoided relegation there three years ago. Well, good memories before the then-saviour Harry Redknapp sodded off and left the club soak up the financial mess he left them in.
Look – the draw.
Hogan’s career hit somewhat of a brick wall at Villa despite displaying serial ability at this level for Brentford only a few years ago, but his presence combined with his likely strike partner in the best targetman in the league causes havoc for opposition defences.
Bristol try to play out from the back and they’re more of a soft touch than people think. Losing Josh Brownhill is a mammoth blow and their former captain was not just their most gifted performer, but also the chief communicator.
If things aren’t clear at the back with these two lingering around, I wish you luck in stopping them.
Friday night football is frenetic and while Birmingham legs and perhaps more importantly, minds, will be tired – there’s a chance for Bristol City to come out all guns blazing. I expect them to do so, as well.
However the one big bonus to goals bettors, particularly first half goal bettors, is set piece prowess.
That’s something both of these teams possess en masse.
When patterns of play break down because of rustiness, then there’s always a moment of quality around the corner from your dead ball specialist.
Harlee Dean scored the winning penalty midweek too. Can we cap off an impressive four days with a goal here, too?
*Prices correct at time of publication.