Blues v Sheffield Wed preview

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February 19, 2013 by Made In Brum

After the dreadful performance against Watford, it has taken a big commitment from me to cancel what I normally do on Tuesday night, to go down to St. Andrews for the match, and also to book tickets for the Peterborough game on Saturday. But now is the time to support the team. We’ve got two crucial games which, like it or not, are almost in the territory of being relegation six-pointers. Wednesday are just 2pts off the drop zone and Peterborough are bottom, but they have been showing signs of resurgence. 4-6pts from those games would be great, 2-3pts would be tolerable but not really good enough, and less than that would be almost unthinkable. For me, this is the time to put our lingering doubts about Clark aside, for the moment at least, as we look to recover from the Watford game, and head into 2 matches that can have sizeable say in the future of our club…

My XI for the match 

The back four seriously need to tighten up in this game. Yes, Watford are a talented team but we made it all too easy for them- they could run rings around us without breaking sweat, although you can partly blame the midfield for not offering the defence enough protection. It’s unusual to praise your goalkeeper when you’ve lost 4-0, but we allowed Watford too many easy shots at goal, so Butland didn’t necessarily have a bad game.

Fahey- back in training

Fahey- back in training

The big news is it’s a return to midfield of Keith Fahey, and I for one am delighted. Sometimes people have a go at Fahey, they think he plays too many sideways or backwards passes, people question what it’s actually doing for the side. I personally think Fahey’s job is the most underrated role in a team. I think every successful football team in the world, has one player who can help his side retain possession. Scholes at Man United, Pirlo now at Juventus, Alonso at Madrid, Schweinsteiger at Bayern, probably every Barcelona player. And remember how good we were in 09/10 when we had Barry Ferguson and finished 9th? It’s no coincidence in my view, that towards the end of the season we went down, Ferguson picked up an injury. He was instrumental to us.

That’s why I believe Keith Fahey will become an integral part of our team, once he’s fully fit. All season, we’ve lacked a player who can sit fairly deep, organise the defence a little bit, always be in space and have time on the ball, and when needed, play the simple pass. It just eases the pressure on the whole team. In recent matches, Wade Elliott has began to fill that role and he’s done okay, but he’s not a natural, in my eyes Keith Fahey is. What I’d want to do though, is bench Fahey and give him a 10 minute run out at the end, to make sure he gets back to full match fitness.

I did think 4-5-1 would be the best formation against Watford, because we could afford to draw the match, but that’s not the case for this game. We have to be positive and look for the win, so I would go with 4-4-2. Because Gomis had a poor game on Saturday, I’d replace him with Callum Reilly, who will provide us with some tenacity. Elliott has been doing reasonably well in the centre of the park, and he’s an experienced head, so I’d partner him with Reilly. I would be inclined to go with Burke and Redmond on the flanks, because Redmond made a fantastic impact in the game against Forest and he ran around a lot against Watford, I think he deserves a start. In other news, Darren Ambrose returns to the squad after injury and played in a youth team match on Monday.

Zigic is now back in contention, and I think Clark has got a difficult decision to make on who to pick up front. From what I’ve seen of Thomas, I would say that Zigic is a better quality forward than him, yet if I was Clark I’d be cautious about letting him back into the first XI so promptly. I think that he needs to really earn his place in the team back, so I would stick with Peter Lovenkrands and Wes Thomas up top, bring Zigic on with half an hour to go if we need a goal. If he plays well coming off the bench, then I’d probably reward him with a start against Peterborough.

Wednesday’s current form

We’ve hardly picked a good time to play Wednesday. They’ve amassed 7pts from their last 3 games and fought back from 2-0 down to claim a draw against Derby on Saturday. They’ve got a decent defensive record as well, and have only conceded 5 goals in their last 5 games.

However, maybe this is the day we can finally keep a clean sheet- at the 20th time of asking! We are now the team in the Championship to go the longest period of time without keeping a clean sheet, so that has to change. We have decent reason to hope that it will tonight, because Wednesday’s top scorer, Michail Antonio, has just 7 goals this season.

My prediction 

I’m hoping, hoping slightly more than expecting admittedly, that having to play 3 days after the Watford match will work in our favour. It does offer us an opportunity to get the result out of our system quickly, so I’m going to back the team to bounce back. I think it’ll be very tight contest, but reckon we can nick it 1-0, Chris Burke to get our goal. Come on you Blues!!

By Gabriel Sutton

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