MX23RW : Saturday, October 5 16:00:17| >> :600:257021:257021:
Oct 4, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at ​St Andrew's
Attendance: 19,703
BirminghamBirmingham City
Villalba (33'), Bailey (89')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Ayala (87')

Preview: Birmingham City vs. Middlesbrough - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday night's Championship clash between Birmingham City and Middlesbrough, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Two teams struggling for form in the Championship go head to head on Friday night when Birmingham City welcome Middlesbrough to St Andrew's.

The hosts go into the match looking to arrest a run of three straight defeats, while Middlesbrough have only won one of their last six and are languishing down in 19th place.

Match preview

Birmingham City manager Pep Clotet pictured on August 31, 2019© Reuters

It has been a stop-start beginning to life in the dugouts for both managers so far, with Birmingham boss Pep Clotet and Middlesbrough's Jonathan Woodgate finding wins difficult to come by of late.

The Blues have fared better in general, most notably picking up a 1-0 win away to high-flyers Charlton Athletic last month, but since that result they have failed to add to their points tally.

A 1-0 home defeat to Preston North End was followed by a 3-2 reverse at Derby County in which they recovered from two goals down but then missed a penalty and conceded the winner shortly afterwards.

The theme of self-destruction continued on Tuesday night when a Lee Camp howler gifted Wigan Athletic the only goal of the game at the DW Stadium, making it three defeats on the bounce for Birmingham.

The last time they suffered a worse run was back in March, and with league leaders Leeds United next up after the international break they will be desperate to return to winning ways under the lights on Friday night.

A win over Leeds at St Andrew's in April actually kicked off a run of just one defeat in Birmingham's last eight home league games, which should bode well against a Middlesbrough side winless on the road this season.

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate pictured on September 14, 2019© Reuters

Woodgate's side have taken just two points from the 12 on offer away from home so far, most recently falling to a 1-0 defeat at Cardiff City.

Indeed, wins have been difficult to come by home or away for Boro this term, managing just two from their 11 outings across all competitions in 2019-20.

A 1-1 draw with an in-form and high-flying Preston side on Tuesday night was a step in the right direction after back-to-back defeats before that - certainly compared to the 4-1 thrashing at home to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend - but they are now just two places above the relegation zone.

The Preston draw was attended by the lowest Riverside crowd in four-and-a-half years, and Boro could desperately do with a result and performance to recapture the fans' imaginations.

Birmingham form: LWWLLL

Middlesbrough form: DDWLLD

Team News

Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga celebrates scoring their first goal on August 20, 2019© Reuters

Woodgate made four changes to his side for the match against Preston, including another start up front for top scorer Britt Assombalonga.

The striker could be rested for this quick turnaround of fixtures, though, with Ashley Fletcher biding his time for a chance to impress from the start.

Dani Ayala made a welcome return at centre-back on Tuesday night and should start again for this one, while Woodgate has a decision to make at left-back, where he preferred makeshift defender Ryan Shotton ahead of Marc Bola on Tuesday.

Birmingham, meanwhile, are expected to welcome Marc Roberts and Jacques Maghoma back after both missed the defeat at Wigan through minor injuries.

Cheick Keita and Jonathan Grounds should also be in contention for a place as they continue their own recoveries, but Maikel Kieftenbeld and Jefferson Montero are longer-term absentees.

Birmingham possible starting lineup:
Camp; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Pederson; Crowley, Gardner, Sunjic, Villalba; Jutkiewicz, Gimenez

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Randolph; Dijksteel, Ayala, Fry, Bola; McNair, Clayton, Howson; Tavernier, Fletcher, Browne

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We say: Birmingham 1-0 Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough arrive at St Andrew's in a run of miserable form and, while Birmingham have not fared any better over their last three games, their problems do not seem to be as deep-rooted. It is likely to be a close contest, but we're backing the hosts to come out on top.

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Who will win Friday night's Championship clash between Birmingham and Middlesbrough?

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Fran Villalba in action for Birmingham City on August 31, 2019
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