Sheffield United: In focus - Saturday's opponents Birmingham City

Garry Monk
Garry Monk
0
Have your say

Sheffield United travel to the second city to face Birmingham City in what is a crucial match at both ends of the table.

The Blades are one of seven teams looking to get into two play-off spots, while the Blues are two points above the relegation zone.

A draw is unlikely to do either side much good.

Here is everything you need to know about Birmingham City:

Manager

It is easy to forget that Garry Monk was a hardened centre-back who operated largely in the Football League. Since 2014, however, he has had a varied coaching career.

He stepped in as interim Swansea City boss following the sacking of Michael Laudrup and kept the team in the Premier League before leading the Swans to eighth in the 2014/2015 season with their highest top-flight points tally.

But he was soon introduced to the capricious nature of football management, sacked less than half way through the following season.

He was seen as an astute appointment by Leeds United in June 2016 even if people from the outside thought he was taking a risk. For a large part of the season it appeared to be a good move as Leeds sat in the upper echelons of the league only to miss out on a play-off position.

Despite the club wanting to extend his stay Monk left to the apparent surprise of the club and pitched up at Middlesbrough ahead of this season. Despite significant investment by the club Monk only lasted until December.

He arrived at St Andrews in March, tasked with keeping the Blues in the league having replaced Steve Cotterill.

One to watch

Che Adams returns from suspension to face his old team this weekend. The 21-year-old scored 15 goals for the Blades before his move to Birmingham in 2016. Last season he netted a pivotal goal to keep the Blues in the second tier and could prove important in the final three fixtures.

Team news

Sam Gallagher, who has missed the last six matches with a calf injury, and the aforementioned Adams are set to be brought back into the squad to improve the club's striking options. Centre-back Harlee Dean misses out through suspension after being sent off against Wolves.

Formation

For the most part of the season Birmingham have lined up in a 4-4-2 system. But of late, due to an absence of strikers, it has been adapted to a 4-4-1-1 formation. However, with Adams and Gallagher back they could revert. The Blues often rely on individual skill to pries teams open and are not shy to shoot.

Previous meeting

The teams played out a 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane in November. Jeremie Boga opened the scoring for the Blues but the Blades hit back in the second half with Leon Clarke converting having been set up by David Brooks.

Form

After starting with two defeats under Monk, the Blues' form picked up with three successive wins followed by a draw. But defeat in the last two outings has left Birmingham in 21st, two points above the relegation zone.

What the manager says

"Our fight needs to be stronger than everyone else’s," says Garry Monk. "That’s our mentality - that’s how we are trying to prepare. It will be a difficult game, we all know that. They have all been difficult games but we take confidence from our preparation and seeing everything together - our fans coming to St Andrew’s. We will put that into our game."

Stats

Birmingham struggle to get shots on target. They only get 30.23 per cent of efforts on target, only Sheffield Wednesday have a worse percentage.