Birmingham City travel to the Swansea.com Stadium on Saturday, where they will begin the 2023/24 EFL Championship season against the Swans. The hosts are favourites going into the tie and they will look to extend their good run of form from the end of last season into the new campaign, although in the last six meetings, the Blues are unbeaten against this weekend’s opponent.
Swansea go into the new season with Michael Duff at the helm after he replaced Russel Martin, who moved to Championship rival, Southampton. Under Martin last season, Swansea were far stronger at home than they were on the road, so hosting the first game of the new campaign favours the Swans. Furthermore, the Swansea.com Stadium saw the highest average goals per game (3.04) in the entire Championship last campaign, with Swansea scoring the 4th highest at home whilst also conceding the fifth most.
The Swans have been quite active in the transfer window so far, bringing in three attackers, Jerry Yates who scored 14 times for Blackpool last season, Mykola Kukharevych who joins from Troyes after showing promise on loan at Hibernian and winger Josh Ginelly who had an excellent season in the Scottish top flight and in the European Conference League with Hearts. However, they have also lost two first choice defenders, Joel Latibeaudiere and last season’s Supporter’s Player of the season, Ryan Manning who score five goals and registered 10 assists from left back.
Based on the most recent pre-season games, it is expected that Swansea City line up in a 5-3-2 system with star forward Joel Piroe leading the line. Duff will look to keep it solid at the back, in an attempt to harness the Birmingham attack, but he will also demand creation from his midfielders and wing backs.
Unlike Swansea, Birmingham City go into the new campaign with a familiar face in charge, John Eustace. The Blues were very average last season and they will have plenty of aspects to improve upon within the next ten months. Their goals scored/goals conceded statistics reflect their 17th place finish, as they didn’t excel at either end of the field. In order to climb the table Eustace must develop a style that increases the Blues goal output, which was 47 goals in 46 games.
Birmingham have displayed their intent to improve their squad in the transfer market, acquiring eight players already who you would expect to challenge for a first team spot next season. We saw a new look attack in their most recent pre-season friendly against Peterborough United with new signings Tyler Roberts and Siriki Dembele both starting, and I expect that they will become key players next season.
The last two pre-season matches ended in a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 loss which indicates a clear lack of control and that their defensive structure must be corrected ahead of the weekend. Due to the friendlies, I expect Birmingham to approach the game as an underdog, in terms of attempting to stop Swansea and choosing their moments to attack.
When the two sides faced last season, we witnessed two thrilling games that ended 4-3 to Birmingham and a 2-2 draw, however in round one of the Championship last campaign, all but one game concluded with under three goals.
Swansea should just have enough to edge Birmingham here, considering their attacking duo of Yates and Piroe who provide a lot of goal threat, although it is unknown how the side will perform under new management. The Blues will supply a threat, but their lack of true goal scorer may hinder their attacking capabilities.