Harry to Help Birmingham Shake off the Blues

Birmingham have just two games to secure Championship survival.

Birmingham have just two games to secure Championship survival.

We expected a little more from Birmingham in the 1-0 midlands derby defeat to rivals Aston Villa, with the both teams to score bet falling short. Gabby Agbonlahor’s goal was enough to see off the Blues and put them in further danger of relegation. However, there were definite signs of improvement in Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge, and there are reasons to back a Blues win at the weekend at a very attractive price.

Birmingham host one of the Championship’s best-performing sides in Huddersfield, but the fixture is much less daunting than it may appear at first on paper. The Terriers confirmed their place in the top six with a 1-0 victory at Wolves on Tuesday night, and therefore have much less to play for than they might. Brighton suffered a 2-0 defeat away at Norwich in the fixture following confirmation of promotion, and it could be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for Huddersfield too. Not only will the pressure be off after the inevitable midweek celebrations, but manager, staff and players will already have one eye on play off preparations. Whatever happens in their final two games of the regular season, the Terriers will line up in the end-of-season showpiece, and that will be their only priority.

For Birmingham the case is clear. They sit two points above the drop zone and their fate remains in their own hands. A trip to Bristol City awaits on the final day of the season, but Saturday’s match against Huddersfield could be vital. Blackburn are the side most likely to catch them, and as my colleague here at SBO has pointed out, the Villains will do the Blue absolutely no favours. Rovers face Villa on Saturday and Brentford away next week. Wigan must make up six points in two games on Birmingham to have any chance of survival, but that looks unlikely with the Latics facing Reading and Leeds in their last two games – two sides that need points for play off places.

Another team looking to secure a play off spot is Fulham, and they could clinch their top six finish with a home win over Brentford. Meanwhile, Forest and QPR are both still in the relegation battle and face a real six-pointer at Loftus Road.

Birmingham v Huddersfield

In their last home game of the season, against a side that doesn’t need a result, Birmingham are worthy of a punt at +165  with Marathonbet.

Harry Redknapp said he was pleased with his players’ application, if not the result at Villa Park, and after having a full week to work with his squad one suspects a better performance will ensue on Saturday. As pointed out, Huddersfield’s win at Wolves in the week has significantly changed the complexion of this match, and it wouldn’t even be a surprise to see David Wagner rest some players in preparation for the play off semi final.

Birmingham have been woeful for the bulk of the season – form which led Gianfranco Zola to “sack himself” – but that’s why the experienced Redknapp has been brought in, and he’s exactly the type of man-manager who should be able to get the best out of his players. The one thing you can guarantee with this bet is that Birmingham will be fighting tooth and nail for every inch, whereas it is doubtful that Huddersfield will have anything like the same motivation.

Fulham v Brentford

A short enough price, but Fulham are good things to beat Brentford at -200  with SkyBetBetway and William Hill, securing their own place in the top six in the process.

Although Leeds are within three points of Fulham, the Whites would require a 13-goal swing to overtake the Cottagers, so three more points for the Londoners on Saturday should seal the deal. Fulham hadn’t been in the top six since early September this season, but gate-crashed the party at just the right time a few weeks ago. A run of four straight wins – including the scalps of Norwich, Villa and Huddersfield – suggest they are good value for a play off place, and they notched at least three goals in each of those games.

Brentford, ironically, have found some of their best form since any prospects of promotion or relegation were put to bed. They’ve won 8 of the last 13, losing just 3 times, and fans could be forgiven for wondering what might have been had they not started the season in such poor fashion. Nonetheless, they’ll provide a stern test for their London neighbours. Fulham are one step from completing their target of the top six, though, and are in great goal-scoring form.

QPR v Nottingham Forest

Finally, both teams to score is the best way to approach the basement battle at QPR at odds of -139  with Bwin.

Rangers are on a terrible six-game losing streak, and surprisingly are still not mathematically safe from relegation. They do have a five-point cushion over Blackburn, but require at least another point to be safe – maybe more depending on other results. An away match at Norwich follows this, which is not the kind of fixture they want to be going into in need of points.

Forest are also in dire straits, just three points above Blackburn with a marginally better goal difference. A home game against Ipswich next week is a more palatable final fixture, and it looks like going to the wire. At least they managed a victory last week, beating Reading 3-2, but Forest haven’t won away from home since November.

Both teams have scored in each of QPR’s last eleven home fixtures, and with both sides looking for a vital win, it would be no great shock to see both hit the net for a 12th Loftus Road game in a row.

Tips Summary

Birmingham to beat Huddersfield
Saturday 29th April, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +165

Fulham to beat Brentford
Saturday 29th April, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  -200

QPR v Forest – Both teams to score
Saturday 29th April, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  -139