Friday night sees Lee Bowyer’s Birmingham host Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United, and I’ve picked out three selections for a Bet Builder.
It will be interesting to see how Birmingham respond to their agonising draw at Derby last week – leading 2-0 after 86 minutes and not holding on to all three points.
The Blues have struggled for consistency this season. A strong start saw Lee Bowyer’s men pick up 11 points from their opening six games. They then picked up just two more in their next seven. Three wins on the bounce was then followed by one win in ten… you get the picture.
That being said, no one expected Birmingham to pull up any trees this season, and the main objective of avoiding relegation looks to have been achieved.
For their opponents, it’s been a frustrating campaign. Despite being fancied in many quarters for an immediate return to the Premier League, transfer activity was limited, and Slavisa Jokanovic, who wasn’t given assurances he’d be able to mould the squad as he wished in January, was let go.
It took six games for United to register their first victory, but only five more followed. Despite languishing in the bottom half of the table, fans were less than pleased with the decision to remove the Serb from his position just six months and 22 games into the job.
However, despite the lack of approval from the stands, there has been an uptick in form since.
Although postponements have limited Paul Heckingbottom to just six games in charge, only Blackburn and Middlesbrough have picked up more points per game since his arrival.
Admittedly the fixture list has been kind to Heckingbottom, so it’s tough to get too good a read on where Sheffield United are now.
They’ve played just six games in the last 10 weeks and are lagging behind their play-off rivals in the table; Nottingham Forest are four points ahead, while Huddersfield and West Brom six ahead, but have all played three games more.
They say points on the board are better than games in hand, but the Blades are 11/8 to reach the top six, and if they can maintain their form when the tougher fixtures arrive, that price is sure to shorten.
For now they’ll look to make the most of another clash with a bottom-half side. Heckingbottom has only overseen one fixture in front of a home crowd this season – picking up 10 points from five away games, and I expect the Blades to add three more on Friday night. My first selection is Sheffield United to win at 21/20.
Uncertainty has surrounded Kristian Pedersen’s future recently, with the left-back set to leave on a free in the summer and I fancy the exciting Jayden Bogle to ask some questions of him. Pedersen’s been booked six times this season and won’t be relishing a night against the 20-year-old – I’ve got him to be carded at 10/3.
The Blades have been awarded a massive 28 corners across their last three games an average of 9.33 a game, and if they can keep finding the likes of Bogle in dangerous areas, over 5 for the visitors at 11/10 looks very enticing, so that’s my third and final selection for this week.
Sheffield United to win - 21/20
Kristian Pedersen to be booked - 10/3
Sheffield United over 5 corners - 11/10
Bet Builder - 22/1
By Steve Freeth