Bank on Brum to bounce back
After the humiliation of last weekend's 5-0 home defeat to Barnsley, Birmingham can face up to their demons in an ideal setting: away to top-of-the-table Brighton with everybody writing them off. No pressure, just a burning desire to set the record straight.
To even consider backing the away win at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, one must cast aside all memories of the horror show that unfolded against the Tykes. Forget the lack of urgency, the lack of purpose, the lack of pride. Forget the gaping holes at the back once the deadlock had been broken.
Forget also everything we said about the shortcomings of Lee Clark during the week. This isn't necessarily about Clark and how much he has cracked the whip at their Wast Hills training ground this week, this is about 11 men who embarrassed themselves on national television last week. Put yourself in their position.
When the season started back in August, we could barely separate these two teams in our thoughts. Birmingham had finished in the top six last season and looked stronger, if anything, in terms of personnel, while Brighton were six places and ten points further back.
Early indications suggest Gus Poyet's men have taken their game to a new level and they now top the Championship with 16 points from seven matches. But that brings its own pressures. Already we've seen Blackburn and Blackpool come a cropper once they've been regarded as the team to beat, now it's Brighton on a hiding to nothing.
Granted, Blues have injuries to contend with in defence but one assumes the emphasis won't be on sitting back and waiting for things to happen, it will be about playing on the front foot and getting in people's faces. If the visitors react in the way that a wounded animal usually reacts, then they have the quality to take the spoils.
The Seagulls are going in pursuit of a sixth straight victory but their chances of completing the feat are hampered by an injury to star striker Craig Mackail-Smith. Poyet isn't short of options with Stephen Dobbie ready to step in for his debut but he'd prefer not to alter a winning formula.
You can only admire the consistency that Brighton have shown up to this point but three of those past five wins have been achieved against what we regard as bottom-eight opposition, which hasn't been factored into the prices, and we can't resist taking the near-4/1 quotes about the Midlanders prevailing.
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