With 4 points from the opening two games in the bag and being the only team not to concede a goal yet in the Championship this season, Birmingham City are preparing to welcome Bournemouth to St. Andrew’s on Wednesday night (7.45pm KO) – providing yet another big test for Lee Bowyer’s Blues at the start of the season.
After a goalless stalemate with Stoke City at the weekend, Blues will be hoping to take maximum points against a Cherries side who, in recent history at least, have been dominant against the Blues. In fact, Blues haven’t bettered The Cherries in any competition since a 2-0 win in December 2013.
But this looks and feels like a very different Blues side to the one Bournemouth faced last year. They are dogged and will fight for every ball – with some players willing to run 50 yards just to make a tackle. That is the kind of commitment that gets you something out of games and Bowyer seems to have instilled a “never say die” attitude in this squad – something that Blues fans love to see.
Bowyer seems to have instilled a fight and desire in this side not seen since the days of Gary Rowett or even Garry Monk, and something Bowyer said in his post-game interview really struck a chord with me; that if Blues aren’t going to win a game, then he is sure as hell not going to see them lose it – which to me shows exactly what he expects of the players, and they know it. Not just that, but they all seem to have bought into it – which is exactly what you need in a league like this.
However, if Blues are to win this game, they must take their chances when they fall to them. In the Championship, you will be punished if you do not take them, and this Bournemouth side will certainly put you to the sword if you give them the chance.
After falling short in the play-offs last season, Bournemouth come to St. Andrew’s with a new manager in Scott Parker and will be looking to add to their 4 points and cement their solid start of the season. Excluding injuries, they have only lost Asmir Begovic, Diego Rico and Jack Wilshire from their squad, so the Cherries will certainly be a force to be reckoned with and should not be taken lightly. Anything short of promotion for the south-coast side will be considered a failure.
Last Time Out
Going into this game, then caretaker manager Jonathan Woodgate desperately need a result and the Cherries stand-in boss got one, however it didn’t quite start the way he had hoped. Blues, having had some excellent chances, finally opened the scoring and took a deserved lead when the recalled Scott Hogan tapped in after Gary Gardner’s low cross was fumbled by Asmir Begovic. However, it wasn’t long before the Cherries levelled, as Arnaut Danjuma curled in after excellent build-up play by Jack Wilshere.
The former Arsenal and West Ham midfielder then put the Cherries in front, with a looping header from six yards after Adam Smith’s ball in. However, just seven minutes later, Scott Hogan’s glancing header from Ivan Sanchez’s whipped cross brought the scores level again.
Blues looked like they might steal a point, but it wasn’t to be. Billing was on hand to tap in from close range at the far post after Danjuma’s curled free-kick from wide on the left.
YouTube: HIGHLIGHTS | AFC Bournemouth v Blues
Neil Etheridge has been training with the first-team this week, but this game will probably come too soon as he continues his recovery from COVID-19. Dion Sanderson played 45 minutes for the U23s on Monday night as he continues his return from injury. Tahith Chong has been training this week, after picking up an injury against Sheffield United on the opening day of the season, and could make the squad.
Ben Pearson and Junior Stanislas could make the squad for the first time this season after coming back from injury, and loanee Leif Davies could also see more minutes after he made it through his first game back at the weekend.
Steve Cook and Arnaut Danjuma will have late fitness tests ahead of the game – and it is touch and go if they make the squad, both returning after lengthy injury spells.
David Brooks (suspended) and Lewis Cook (knee) will both definitely miss out, with Jack Stacey also unlikely to make the trip to the Midlands.
Current Form – Last 6 Games (in all competitions)
Blues – D W W L L W
Bournemouth – W D W L W L
Blues wins: 3
Bournemouth wins: 13
Last four meetings between Blues and The Cherries…
Championship 06 Feb 2021 – AFC Bournemouth 3-2 Blues
Championship 07 Nov 2020 – Blues 1-3 AFC Bournemouth
League Cup 22 Aug 2017 – Blues 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
FA Cup 09 Jan 2019 – Blues 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
Referee: Andy Davies
Assistant Referees: Mark Dwyer and Adrian Waters
Fourth Official: Craig Hicks
This is a tough one to call – the optimist in me wants to fully back Blues in a win, but I’m just not sure I can see that happening. If Blues do want to get anything from this game, they have to take their chances. If Chong is fit and plays, I think we have a better chance, but I think this could be the first loss of the season for Blues – although it will be a close game. 2-1 Bournemouth.
What are your predictions for the game? Let Us Know!