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Improved Blues can avoid defeat at bitter rivals Villa

Second City derby could be closer than the prices suggest

Steve Bruce is the new manager at Sheffield Wednesday
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, midday Sunday

Birmingham have had an excellent start to the year and can show how much they have improved by taking at least a point from highflying Aston Villa at Villa Park.

The markets favour the home side, who are odds-on favourites to register a seventh successive league victory and boost their automatic promotion chances.

However, Steve Bruce’s outfit haven’t been entirely convincing during their recent winning streak and showed some vulnerability last Saturday when labouring to a 3-2 success at home to basement boys Burton.

It was far from a dominant performance with the shot count 12-7 in Villa’s favour.

But it was still an improvement because Villa had lost the shot count in their previous three games – 16-9 in the 1-0 win at Sheffield United, 21-13 in the 3-1 victory at home to Barnsley and 10-8 in the 1-0 triumph at Nottingham Forest.

Winning without playing well is often considered to be a skill in itself but the statistics show that Villa are not dominating matches and sooner or later they are likely to pay a price for ordinary performances.

Villa's matches against Birmingham are often extremely tight.

Seven of the last eight have featured no more than two goals and the teams drew 0-0 in a typically feisty affair at St Andrew's last October.

At the time Birmingham were only just getting started under new manager Steve Cotterill but they have made a lot of progress in recent weeks, taking 13 points from six games to drag themselves off the foot of the table and out of the drop zone.

Survival is still not guaranteed but the Blues are starting to look a decent Championship side and they are capable of matching their bitter rivals.

Recommendation
Birmingham or draw double chance
1pt 23-20 Betway

Bet on this match at Soccerbase.com

Team news
Aston Villa
Loan signing Lewis Grabban could be involved for the first time and Robert Snodgrass has shaken off a minor groin complaint. Jonathan Kodjia (ankle) and Jed Steer (shoulder) are out.

Birmingham
Jonathan Grounds (knee) is ruled out for the rest of the season and Jacques Maghoma (groin) is a doubt.

Key stat
Birmingham are unbeaten in their last five away matches.

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However, Steve Bruce's outfit haven't always been fully convincing during their recent winning streak and showed some vulnerability last Saturday
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