We head straight back into Sky Bet Championship action at The Den tonight (7:45pm) as Garry Monk’s Birmingham City make the trip to South London. The Blues sit 12th in the League heading into the game, and look to make amends after their recent 4-2 defeat in the Second City derby at Aston Villa on Sunday. The Lions are on the hunt for three points to move clear of the bottom three, after snatching a point late on in Saturday’s match with Bolton Wanderers.
Birmingham City have spent the majority of their existence in the top two divisions of English football, and have been promoted from the second tier 12 times – four of those occasions as champions. The Blues are into their eighth straight season in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League in 2010/11, the same campaign the club won only their second major trophy – lifting the League Cup for the first time in 48 years. The domestic triumph saw the club contest European football whilst competing in the Championship, eliminated in a Europa League group containing Club Brugge, Braga and Maribor. Birmingham have experienced mixed League form in recent years, with final positions ranging from a 2012 Play-Off place in fourth, to surviving on goal difference in 21st on the final day of the 2013/14 campaign, following a stoppage-time goal to gain a crucial point.
Ones to Watch
Michael Morrison (#28) has played in all of Birmingham’s League fixtures so far this season, becoming a reliable presence and an integral leader in Monk’s side. The central defender – also adept as a full-back – joined the club in early 2015 after an emergency loan spell from Charlton Athletic earlier in the 2014/15 campaign. Morrison enjoyed a successful time at The Valley, winning the League One title with 101 points and earning himself a place in the 2011/12 PFA Team of the Year for the division. He then remained a key part of Charlton’s squad as they secured a top-half Championship finish the following season. Morrison established himself at Cambridge for whom he made his senior debut in 2005, going on to play for Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday, along with the England ‘C’ side. Still only 30, Morrison carries more than enough experience to guide The Blues on the pitch.
Jota (#23) has been regarded as one of the Championship’s leading creative players, having demonstrated his abundance of skill at this level since 2014, when he joined Brentford from Celta Vigo. The tricky Spaniard progressed with Celta’s youth academy before playing senior football with the club’s ‘B’ team, also representing Real Madrid’s secondary side. A loan spell with Eibar in 2013/14 proved successful as the team won the Segunda Division, prompting The Bees to bring him to West London. Following a further temporary switch to Eibar, Jota moved on to Birmingham in 2017. The midfield man scored five goals in his debut campaign, and currently has a goal and five assists to his name this time around. A Galician international, Jota was deemed unfit to face Aston Villa at the weekend and will be pushing for a return to Monk’s side tonight.
Che Adams (9) has revelled in a great season so far in a blue shirt, winning many admirers for his confidence, unpredictable style of play and ability to change games. At the age of only 22, Adams carries plenty of potential and has been in League football for a number of years, after making his first-team debut for former club Sheffield United in 2014. An agile, powerful forward, Adams has fired eight goals this season as well as claiming two assists, forming a terrific understanding with nine-goal striker Lukas Jutkiewicz. Originally an academy player for Coventry City, Adams spent much of his teenage in non-league, and was recruited by The Blades after contributing to 20 goals for Ilkeston Town by October of the 2013/14 campaign. The former England U20 player arrived in the Midlands in 2016, fast approaching 100 games for the club.
Lukas Jutkiewicz (10) has plenty of experience in English football, having made his first EFL appearance for Swindon Town in 2006. The striker went on to spend time with Everton – where he made his Premier League debut – along with Coventry City and Middlesbrough, before signing for Burnley in 2014. Despite varying levels of success with his previous clubs, Jutkiewicz possesses undeniable finishing ability and has hit the ground running since his arrival at Birmingham – initially on loan – in 2016. The 29-year-old averages just short of a goal every three games for The Blues, and has fired 10 so far this season along with claiming three assists, building a terrific attacking partnership with Adams. With bags of experience and time relatively still on his side, Jutkiewicz could turn out to be a key asset for Monk for a number of seasons to come.
In the Dugout
Garry Monk is one of the EFL’s youngest managers, having only turned 39 earlier this year. In relation to his age, Monk has his fair share of experience as a Championship boss, with The Blues representing his fourth club. Starting in the Premier League with Swansea City – for whom he spent a decade on the pitch as a defender – Monk’s next job came with Leeds United, spending just under a year at Elland Road before moving further north to Middlesbrough. After half a season at the Riverside, Monk departed, and joined Birmingham in March this year. The former centre-half settled in South Wales during his playing days, after loan spells with several clubs whilst at Southampton in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Monk won the League Cup at Wembley with Swansea in 2013, along with one Football League Trophy in 2006 and the League One title in 2008.