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Molineux match could be costly for Zola

Nightmare to continue for Blues boss

Helder Costa celebrates his goal at Stoke in acrobatic fashion
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm Friday

Gianfranco Zola has made a nightmare start to life as Birmingham boss and a trip to Wolves may not be the best place for the Italian to gain a much-needed victory.

Zola heads to Molineux with a record of one win in 14 matches since replacing Gary Rowett, while in the league he has gained six points from 12 fixtures as City have slid down the Sky Bet Championship standings.

The Chelsea legend is clearly a good man with fine footballing principles but the pressure is building from the stands and Zola has been in the game long enough to understand the owners will only stay loyal for so long.

Their faith could well be tested again, although Wolves make no great appeal at odds-on considering they are five points below Blues in the table and a better bet may come in supporting home hero Helder Costa to get on the scoresheet.

Not all of the players signed by Wolves this season have become big hits but Costa certainly falls into that category with ten goals in 33 appearances since arriving from Benfica, initially in a loan deal that was made permanent for a fee of £13m.

The set-piece master showed in last week's FA Cup defeat to Chelsea that he should be playing at the top level and Costa tends to do most of his best work in the high-profile fixtures.

Birmingham have been a mess at the back and if anyone is set to take advantage Costa seems most likely.

Zola switched to a three-man defence for the first half against QPR last week with disastrous consequences as they were stuffed 4-1 at home, although it is worth pointing out Birmingham were missing more than half a team because of injury and suspension.

However, the performance was not a one-off and for all that Zola has improved Birmingham with the ball they look nothing like the organised machine Rowett produced.

Possession is up - they had 58 per cent of the ball in a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday and 53 per cent in the 2-1 reverse at Preston.

But City had 62 per cent of the possession against QPR yet managed only two shots on target and they are desperately missing injured forward pair Lukas Jutkiewicz and Clayton Donaldson, who have 16 league goals between them this term.

It's still not a certainty that Blues will lose, given that Wolves have hardly been fantastic themselves despite excelling in the FA Cup to defeat Liverpool and Stoke on their way to the fifth round.

Paul Lambert's side have won only two of their last eight league games and lost four of their last five but Wanderers have the best player on the pitch which may prove decisive.

Recommendation
H Costa first goalscorer
1pt 5-1 bet365, Betway, Paddy Power

Bet on this game at Soccerbase.com


Team news
Wolves
Joe Mason and Mike Williamson are nearing a return but are not up to full speed and Nouha Dicko is doubtful. Connor Ronan is set to miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture.   

Birmingham
Top goalscorer Lukas Jutkiewicz remains out and joins Clayton Donaldson on the sidelines, but David Davis and Gary Gardner return from suspension. Jaques Maghoma is back in training.

Key stat
Birmingham have not kept a clean sheet in their last 13 away matches


 

For all that Zola has improved Birmingham with the ball, they look nothing like the organised machine Rowett produced
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