Birmingham City host league leaders Norwich City in the Championship tonight, with Aitor Karanka’s side looking to build on a win v Sheffield Wednesday last time out.
It was a win that brought Birmingham City out of the relegation zone, and one that potentially keeps Karanka in the job for another few weeks.
Many are expecting Championship table-toppers Norwich City to blitz through Birmingham City tonight and on paper it makes for an easy away win. But the game wont be played on paper – it’ll be played on a dogged St Andrew’s pitch.
Sharing the ground with Coventry City this season has left St Andrew’s with a torrid playing surface and for the Sky Blues, it more than played into their hands when they welcomed and beat Brentford last weekend.
Brentford are known for enforcing an attractive style of football and on surfaces like the one at St Andrew’s, it’s just not going to work – Coventry were compact and picked their moments to break at speed, rendering Brentford’s football useless.
Should Birmingham City have any chance of taking something from tonight’s game then they must play to the state of the pitch as to annoy Norwich City.
Karanka doesn’t deploy an attractive style of football. Even in the win against the 10-men of Sheffield Wednesday last time out he was making defensive changes but tonight, that might not be such a bad idea.
If Birmingham City can do as Coventry did against Brentford, and let Norwich City try and play their attractive football, then Blues could quite easily pick Norwich apart on the counter.
Whether or not Birmingham have the players to do so remains questionable. But if Karanka has any opportunity to get one over Norwich City tonight then his best chance lies in frustrating Norwich, letting them have the ball whilst getting bodies behind it.
It won’t be pretty for either side tonight, and that might play into the hands of Birmingham City.