After a first defeat of the season on the weekend, Blues will be looking to bounce back in a difficult fixture against league leaders Preston. An uninspiring display from Blues which was topped off by missed opportunities kept Watford in the game and the Hornets took their chances late on.
The loss of Buchanan due to suspension will be a headache for Eustace. Buchanan’s defensive work has allowed Blues to commit players further forward due to him covering his side immensely. Longelo will be his obvious replacement, however, Longelo is a much more attacking player than Buchanan and can’t be relied on as much defensively. As a result, Eustace may opt to play a back 5 to provide cover for Longelo and allow him to be involved in the attack which he’s done well in his short cameos so far this season.
This is only a prediction and Eustace may choose to remain in the 4-2-3-1 system which has served the side well thus far, but I feel the back 5 is a real possibility, even if it isn’t preferred by fans.
In goal, John Ruddy will be looking to redeem himself after some slight mishaps in recent weeks but the veteran remains the preferred choice between the sticks. In front of him, a trio of Dion Sanderson, Kevin Long and Emanuel Aiwu would likely make up the three centre-backs in this formation.
As for the wingbacks, I’ve already mentioned Longelo for the left side and with Ethan Laird still absent Cody Drameh and Juninho Bacuna are the two options on the right. While Drameh is the natural candidate, Bacuna allows for Blues to have an extra creative player on the pitch in himself as well as having another in midfield. I can see Eustace starting with Bacuna in the hope that Blues are leading around the hour mark before bringing on Drameh to see the game out.
Having Bacuna as a wingback allows Keshi Anderson to start in midfield with Ivan Sunjic and Krystian Bielik. Having Bielik and Sunjic sitting in front of the back 3 allows for the wingbacks to push up further forward and interplay with Anderson as Blues move into and around the final third.
As a duo up top, we will probably see Jay Stansfield and Scott Hogan. The profile of Jutkiewicz would pair better with Stansfield but due to suspension, he is still unavailable. Whilst there’s a chance that Anderson is put up top with Stansfield and Miyoshi or James are moved into that free midfield role, Hogan seems the more likely option.
Predicted Lineup (5-3-2): Ruddy, Longelo, Sanderson, Long, Aiwu, Bacuna, Bielik, Sunjic, Anderson, Hogan, Stansfield