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St Andrew's stalemate looks the value call

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Swansea's spiral down the football pyramid has been attributed by some to the sacking of Garry Monk as manager in December 2015 and the Welsh club may struggle to overcome the Birmingham boss at St Andrew's.

Monk, booted out after one win in 11 with Swansea 15th in the Premier League, had given more than 11 years of service before being dumped and would presumably dearly love to metaphorically stick two fingers up to his former club when the teams meet in the Sky Bet Championship.

A victory may be too much to ask for, but Blues can be difficult to beat at home and are capable of sharing the spoils with the Swans despite a poor start to the new campaign.

Birmingham drew with Norwich in their opener before losing 1-0 at Middlesbrough with ten men, a result which was followed by a League Cup exit at the hands of Reading.

However, Monk made 11 changes in midweek with both eyes firmly fixed on this date and Birmingham can be tough to beat at home.

Last season's champions Wolves won 1-0, but second-placed Cardiff and third-placed Fulham lost at St Andrew's, while fourth-placed Aston Villa had to settle for a point so this looks a tricky assignment for Swansea as they bid to maintain their perfect start to life outside the Premier League.

There has been off-field carnage at Swansea with fans furious at the sales and lack of replacements for those departed, although manager Graham Potter has managed to work his magic with wins over Sheffield United and Preston.

Fine margins, however, have decided both games and sustaining such excellent results will be difficult for a squad significantly weakened by summer departures.

Potter's men put in their best 45 minutes of the season during last week's 1-0 win over Preston but they were left hanging on in the second half as a team with four academy graduates in Connor Roberts, Joe Rondon, Jay Fulton and Oli McBurnie just about claimed maximum points.

McBurnie, who missed a penalty against PNE, is the man who has to shoulder the main goalscoring burden, while there are concerns over a weakened back four which may not be able to protect second-choice keeper Erwin Mulder.

Birmingham are weakened in midfield with Craig Gardner suspended and Cheikh Ndoye loaned back to former club Angers as City fight to stay within financial fair play regulations.

Monk's hands have been tied in terms of bringing in too many players to beef up his squad, yet a side with Jota, Jacques Maghoma, Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz are capable of being at least competitive at home.


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Match in Focus


Albania v Wales

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Albania have scored twice in their last eight matches
Expert verdict
Wales will be down in the dumps after failing to top their Nations League group following a home defeat to Denmark on Friday, although they take a serious drop in grade against an Albanian side, who not only played 24 hours later so are more fatigued but also did so with ten men for 70 minutes of the 4-0 loss to Scotland.