GRAHAM BARROW: Read the Assistant Manager’s thoughts prior to the game, here
AWAY INFO: All you need to know if you’re travelling to Birmingham, here
This is another huge game for Latics, perhaps more so than for Birmingham, although City manager Gianfranco Zola will argue vehemently against that, with a record of just two wins and four draws from the 16 games since he took over at St Andrews.
By anyone’s standards, it has been a poor run and play-off chasing Blues now have one eye on the teams in the bottom three, although a nine-point cushion to the relegation zone would appear to be too big a gap with just 11 games left.
Zola will want to banish any lingering fears of the drop as quickly as possible and look to build for next season, in case anyone has notions of Blues taking it easy against Latics.
As for ourselves, the situation is getting serious and the defeat at relegation rivals Blackburn on Saturday was a blow. However, manager Warren Joyce, who is likely to be at the game following eye surgery, is a fighter and he has instilled a solidity to the squad which always enables Latics to have a platform in games. The problem has been at the other end, of course, as has been well documented.
Birmingham is another opportunity to put right that unwanted record of being the lowest scorers in the league.
Gianfranco Zola – tough period
Latics have problems in midfield following a 10th booking for Sam Morsy against Blackburn – he will miss both games this week – while Shaun MacDonald was stretchered off at Ewood Park with suspected knee ligament damage. Barrow revealed it doesn’t seem to be as bad as first feared but he must be a major doubt. That leaves two big shirts to fill, so could lead to a recall for David Perkins, and Max Power, who started on the bench before replacing MacDonald. Alex Gilbey, who played from the bench against Nottingham Forest ten days ago, could be another option.
For Blues, top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz, may well get a start after coming off the bench following injury against Leeds last Friday. Clayton Donaldson has also resumed training after a heel injury but the game may come too early for him. Otherwise, Zola revealed he virtually a full squad to pick from.
SEASON SO FAR
If one word was to sum it up, it would probably be bizarre. Blue were in 7th position in early December, a point off the play-offs, when manager Gary Rowett was dismissed. A run of ten points from the next available 46 under new manager Zola, and the team tumbling to 17th place in the table, must have had supporters scratching their heads on a weekly basis.
The team are probably safe from relegation – albeit they need a few more wins to arrest the slump – but any thoughts of promotion now seem a distant memory after one of the most disappointing runs in club history.
They have managed just a single win at home under Zola and will clearly look to improve on that against Latics, but we must go there knowing that the team’s confidence will not be in the best place.
CURRENT SQUAD, 2016-17 LEADING LEAGUE GOALSCORERS
10, Lukas Jutkiewicz
6, Clayton Donaldson
4, Che Adams
4, David Davis
3, Jacques Maghoma
3, Michael Morrison
The teams first met in the league in the late 80s when City dropped to the 3rd tier, and we have also met as Premier League sides and of course in the Championship. The head to head is 6-5 in our favour with 8 draws, the last of which came in August when a late Craig Davies goal earned a point in the reverse fixture.
Our last victory in this fixture came at under Uwe Rosler in August 2014, 4-0 at the DW Stadium. Our only ever win at St Andrews came in March 2014, also under Rosler, when Callum McManaman scored the only game of the game in the 3rd minute. Watch those highlights again here…
There’s no better place to start than with our very own Peter Atherton who had a spell at St Andrews. On the staff side, Mick Rathbone was at Birmingham of course, as was Matt Jackson briefly.
Alex Bruce came through the ranks to play three games but hasn’t yet featured for us. Dan Burn played 23 games on loan at St Andrews in 2013-14 while both Will Grigg and Omar Bogle were at the club as youngsters but never played a senior match. On the Birmingham side, Ryan Shotton was with us on loan from Stoke City in 2013.
Looking back, there are plenty of connections. Marcus Bent (obviously) features, but going back, there have been Jerome Sinclair (albeit he played just eight minutes for Latics), Jermaine Pennant, Emyr Huws, Rob Kiernan, Liam Ridgewell, Jean Beausejour, Scott Sinclair, David Cotterill, Olivier Kapo, Wilson Palacios, Richard Kingson, Mario Melchiot, Emile Heskey, Nicky Eaden, and going back further, Mike Newell and Kevin Langley.
Managerially, Steve Bruce links both of course, while Bruce Rioch managed us but played briefly for Blues.
Mario Melchiot - fondly remembered at both clubs
Referee - Scott Duncan (2016-17 : 28 games, 83 Y, 9 R)