Birmingham to have that Blue feeling at Old Trafford
Birmingham City will be delighted that they are back in the Premier League, but they will not be so pleased about their first assignment, an away trip to the champions Manchester United.
The Blues travel to Old Trafford in hope rather than expectation and realistically all they can hope for is mere respectability in the scoreline.
For those who like a long odds chance then the 14/1 about an away victory may tempt some, the draw is priced at 9/2, but for me in the match betting there is only one winner - a home win at 2/9.
Man Utd may have lost Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, but they showed enough last week in the Community Shield, against a far superior side to Birmingham, that there is plenty of quality still at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney returns from international duty with England in midweek and will hope to return from where he left off at Wembley when he scored the late equaliser to take the season curtain-raiser to penalties.
He can be backed at 7/2 to score first (last goal is also available at the same price) or at 10/11 to score at any point during the match. Neither of these odds represent good value to me, although admittedly I can see the frontman scoring.
Birmingham were unimpressive in gaining promotion last term. Alex McLeish's side certainly did not play flowing football and their success was based on solid foundations.
During the summer McLeish recruited Scott Dann and Roger Johnson, two of the best centre-backs last year in the second tier, to add to his defensive pool of players. I still expect the Blues to base their hopes of succeeding in the goal of survival on a solid defence, but I feel these foundations could be found wanting at the Theatre of Dreams.
Man Utd/Man Utd on the double result market could be the way to go for value hunters as Man Utd to be winning at half-time and also at full time is 2/5. Man Utd on the handicap, giving up a one goal start, is also an atrractive proposition at 8/13.
Although on both of the markets above people may be wary of the fact that Birmingham's last two matches against the champions have only yielded 1-0 wins for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, it is a 13/2 shot if you think it will be three 1-0 wins in a row.
However, for me 2-0 or 3-0 scorelines are the preferred options at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively. Birmingham have not scored in five Premier League trips to Old Trafford and I expect this to continue.
City seem to lack a real threat up front, unless the £8.5m gamble on unknown big summer signing Christian Benitez pays off. The Blues attack should not really trouble the United defence, despite it being decimated by injuries to Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael da Silva. In addition Ben Foster and Jonny Evans, the natural replacements for Van der Sar and Vidic, are injury doubts themselves.
However if Rio Ferdinand decides to virtually gift a goal to Birmingham like he did to the Netherlands on Wednesday, it could make things more interesting.
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