Birmingham and Bolton go head to head this week in a game where Bolton head into still looking for their first win of the campaign. After being promoted from League One last season, they knew life back in the Championship would be tough, but they could really do with a win to settle their nerves. Birmingham picked up their first win of the season on Saturday and that will hopefully settle them into the season.
While Birmingham are expected to challenge for a mid-table position this season, I am expecting to see Bolton struggle so every point they manage to pick up on the road will be vital for their chances of survival. Birmingham isn’t an easy place to visit, but it is easier than some of the other so they will have targeted this game as one they can get something from.
An opening day loss to Ipswich wasn’t the ideal start to the season for Birmingham, but Ipswich is a tough place to visit so they won’t have been too unhappy with the narrow defeat. They returned home on Saturday to pick up three points against a Bristol City team who were top of the league after impressively beating Barnsley on the opening day.
Despite falling 1-0 behind at home to Bristol City after just one minutes, The Blues battled their way back into the game, creating chances before finally making one count. Goals from Craig Gardner and Jacques Maghoma sealed the come back and three points, despite Maikel Kieftenbeld being sent off late on for a bad challenge.
Bolton began their Championship campaign with a home defeat to Leeds on the opening weekend, with poor defensive play leading them to lose that game 3-2. The one thing that really stood out in that game for me was Bolton’s lack of chances from open play, with both goals coming from set plays. They are a very direct team, but they have to find a way to score goals in open play if they want to survive.
Their second game of the season wasn’t pretty, but they did manage to take a point from fellow relegation candidates Millwall, which could prove to be an important point later in the season. Again Bolton struck from a set piece, which is becoming a trademark of their already after just two games. The performance wasn’t fantastic, but taking a point back to Bolton with them was, and they will have been happy with the result.
Birmingham will be without Maikel Kieftenbeld after his sending off at the weekend. The impressive Che Adams went off injured during the game and he is also a doubt for this one, he would be a big loss if he couldn’t play. After scoring his first goal since December, I expect Jacques Maghoma will keep his place in the team, even more so if Adams isn’t fit enough to play.
Bolton could be without Josh Vela again for this one, who left the field injured in their opening game of the season. Elsewhere, they are going to have to create more chances and score from open play if they are to have any chance of surviving in the Championship. With Adam LaFondre and Gary Madine in attack they have two players who can score goals and those two need to get going and help their team.
Top Betting Tips
This game looks set to be a very tight and low scoring affair, with Birmingham looking like they will just have the upper hand. I expect Bolton to set up like they did against Millwall at the weekend and if they can take home a point again they would be happy with that.
However, I think Birmingham will eventually be able to break them down and bag all three points. There is not too much value in the 90 minute market so I am going to back Birmingham to sneak a 1-0 victory in this game, which can be backed at 5/1 with William Hill and Paddy Power.
For me this game all rests on whether Birmingham can break down Bolton, who will arrive with a strong game plan to keep things tight and frustrate the home team. I think they will break them down and beat them, but it is going to be very close and we saw how effective Bolton were on the road during Saturday’s game at Millwall. A tight game, but one that Birmingham can just sneak a victory in.