Rovers will look to kick the New Year off with a victory as they make the trip to St Andrew’s to take on a Birmingham City side without a win in five.
Tony Mowbray’s side ended 2020 in a disappointing fashion, conceding an injury-time goal away to Huddersfield Town, leaving Rovers without an away victory since November.
They face a Birmingham side who were demolished 4-0 by Derby County last time out, leaving the Blues with just two victories in their last 13 matches.
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Birmingham have been a side that Rovers haven’t had much success against over the last twenty years or so.
Rovers have recorded just one win in their last 14 matches at St Andrew’s, and just once in their last ten games against the Blues (a 2-0 home win in March 2016).
To add to the pre-match worries, Tony Mowbray has won just once in eleven matches as a manager, picking up a win back in 2011 as Middlesbrough boss.
However, Rovers did win on their last trip to St Andrew’s – unfortunately, the victory came against Coventry City earlier this season, who currently ground share with Birmingham City.
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Defender Marc Roberts is a dominant force in the air, winning 6.3 aerial duels per match (ranking him ninth out of the entire league), and his two goals to his name leaves him as Birmingham’s joint-top scorer in the league this season.
At the other end of the pitch, Lukas Jutkiewicz has been a name that we’ve come to know on a regular basis over the years, scoring four times and assisting twice against Rovers in nine appearances.
Karanka’s side have struggled for goals this season, with only four teams scoring less than the Blues, but with seven players all tied on two goals, it is evident they have players across the pitch who have the ability to score.
The injury situation is still unclear, with both Ryan Nyambe and Daniel Ayala limping off in the defeat to Huddersfield Town. If both are unavailable, I expect that John Buckley will come in at right-back, and Bradley Johnson will drop into centre-back.
There’s also the question surrounding Tom Trybull. The Norwich loanee limped off in the Huddersfield defeat, and Rovers lost their shape, so his involvement could be key in the way Rovers approach this fixture.
Predicted XI: Kaminski, Buckley, Lenihan, Johnson, Bell, Downing, Rothwell, Elliott, Dolan, Armstrong, Brereton
In terms of the match, both sides are in need of a victory after poor results in recent weeks, and Rovers will be keen to get back to winning ways – especially with the way they lost to Huddersfield.
Tony Mowbray needs a result to start turning the tide in his favour, and I’ll back Rovers to pick up all three points here.
Prediction: Birmingham City 1-2 Rovers
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