Birmingham City v Leeds Utd
Sunday 29th December 2019 15.00 | St Andrews
Having collected just two points from an available nine, Leeds travel down to the Midlands to St Andrews hoping to extend the eight point gap between second and the chasing pack. The Whites will be without Hernandez and Forshaw, and whilst Shackleton and Roberts have both recovered from their respective injuries, but are not yet match fit. Jack Clarke has returned to his parent club Spurs. I'm sure he'll come back to haunt us towards the latter end of the season. The word coming from associates of Nketiah, is that North London beckons, and we may have seen the end to the 20 year old hitman.
Second place Leeds are 19 points, and 14 places higher than the Blues, and have a better goal difference by 31, yet St Andrews continuous to be bogey side to the Whites. Blues gaffer Pep Clotet, alongside coaching staff Darryl Flahavan and James Beattie all enjoyed success at Elland Road under the supervision of Garry Monk. How will they fare when they come up against Bielsa? Birmingham are having their own bad spell with just one point from their last four games, that came in a 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day.
Last time the teams met Leeds came away with a 1-0 win thanks to Kalvin Phillips in their centenary game. Last season Birmingham were a bit of a bogey team for Leeds, with the Blues taking all the points thanks to a 2-1 victory at Elland Road and a 1-0 victory at St Andrews. The Blues have a a few injury issues with defender Jake Clarke-Salter is expected to be missing having dislocated his shoulder against Reading. Fellow defender Marc Roberts is also out with an ankle injury. Midifelder Maikel Kieftenbeld will return to training after Christmas having pikced up a knee injury in last Aprils fixture against Leeds but it will not be soon enough to feature this Sunday.
Leeds are without a clean sheet in each of their last 11 away league visits to Birmingham, conceding exactly one goal in each of their last nine such games there. Birmingham are winless in their last four home games in the Championship (D1 L3), suffering defeats in each of the last two. They last suffered three consecutive home defeats in the competition in March 2018. Leeds have won 11 league games away from home in 2019 - their most in a calendar year since 2009 when they were in League One.
Referee Watch - Keith Stroud
Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse, referee for Birmingham on Sunday will be "fans favourite" Keith Stroud. The Luton fan has refereed 28 Leeds games, W13 D6 L9 - Y54 R2 R(×2Y)2. We've won all 3 of the games he's reffed this season: Salford, Barnsley(A), Boro(H). He has refereed 18 Birmingham games to date; W5 D7 L6.
He's well known for not giving us a penalties; last season's away loss to Brentford and against Salford in the cup this season when Harrison was blatantly pulled back by his shirt. Interestingly, Stroud was a Premier League ref for only two seasons before demotion again in 2009/10.
Referee information from Jo Bedford (@El_Loco_JoJo)
Leeds Starting XI
Casilla, Ayling, White, Cooper, Alioski, Dallas, Phillips, Klich, Harrison, Costa, Nketiah
Subs: Meslier, Casey, Douglas, Berardi, Gotts, Stevens, Roberts