Blackpool v Birmingham Preview
Blackpool v Birmingham
Championship play-off semi-final 1st leg
Friday 19:45 - live on Sky Sports 1
Match betting: Blackpool 7/5 Draw 11/5 Birmingham 2/1
Friday night at Bloomfield Road sees two of the three relegated teams from last year's Premier League season face off in the 1st leg of their play-off semi-final. At 5/2 to secure promotion The Blues have favouritism over their 10/3 rated adversaries however a quick glance at the Championship table soon makes it clear that there is nothing in this one.
Birmingham finished in third on 76 points with Blackpool just one point behind. They both won 20 league games, thirteen of those home wins and seven coming on their respective travels. The Seasider's 79 goals were almost matched by Birmingham's 78, whilst at the other end The Blues conceded 51 to Blackpool's 59.
Chris Hughton's men do however boost an advantage in the head to heads. Birmingham had the better of things this season drawing 2-2 in Blackpool and winning 3-0 at St. Andrews. Added to that The Blues also did the double over Blackpool in the Premier League last season.
Although the final standings in the league table are comparable, how each club has achieved their play-off place has been contrasting. Unlike his opposite manager Ian Holloway, who with the exception of Charlie Adams departure was able to compete in the Championship with much of his team that competed in the Premier League, Chris Hughton took over a club that had haemorrhaged around £25 million worth of talent. Added to that the Carling Cup Champions had the distraction of Europa League football to contend with, not to mention the fact that Alex McLeish jumped ship to rivals Aston Villa. After their exertions in European football a play-off spot looked unlikely for The Blues, however the turn of the year has seen Chris Hughton's side lose just one of their ten games.
Remarkable as their rise has been, questions remain over the affect that a 60 plus game season will have on a squad about to embark on a string of cup final style matches. The Tangerines have scored goals for fun in the Championship this season and have also closed their season on a high having only lost once, to Reading, in their past ten games.
Their goal tally has been boosted by ex-Birmingham marksman Kevin Phillips. KP has helped himself to 17 goals this season and the veteran striker is 6/1 to grab the first at Bloomfield on Friday and a 7/4 shot about an anytime goalscorer. Birmingham City could well end up regretting selling the 38-year-old.
Blues fans will hope that Roy Hodgson's departure from West Brom will not distract Chris Hughton and the players from trying to bounce straight back to the Premier League. At 4/1 second favourite the boss at St. Andrews has been heavily linked to the Baggies' post which couldn't come at a worse time for City.
Looking at the stats Birmingham have only managed to prevent the opposition scoring twice on their travels however they themselves found the net in 20 of the 23 road trips. Both Teams To Score at 4/6 is a popular bet for punters when the Brummies play away, however, the William Hill Match Winner could create some interest. We have gone 4/1, enhanced from 3/1, about both Blackpool & Birmingham to score in the first half. Play-off first legs do tend to be tight affairs, however, these two sides are set up for scoring goals and at 4/1 it could be a big pay-out if this one comes in.