Often Partisan

Off to Partizan – Final Game Preview

Thursday sees the final round of Europa League matches which will determine if the dream is to end for Birmingham City, or if they can somehow get back on the road to Bucharest.

Can Blues go through?

The simple answer is yes, Blues can go through to the round of 32 knockout stages, but it is not in our hands. For Blues to go through, they must beat NK Maribor at St Andrews and hope SC Braga beat Club Brugge at the Jan Breydal Stadion in Belgium.

If Brugge win, they top the group with thirteen points, and Braga finish second with ten. Braga will finish above Blues regardless of the result at St Andrews as Braga have the better head to head record.

If Brugge and Braga draw, then Brugge win the group by virtue of their head to head record against the Portuguese side, and Braga go through second with 11 points – which is unobtainable by Birmingham City.

If Braga win, then they will top the group with thirteen points, and a Birmingham City win would see the Blues finish second on ten points by virtue of their better head to head record against Club Brugge.

Obviously the fear is that Brugge and Braga will play for the draw; however Braga are likely to push for a win as topping the group means that they will avoid seeded teams in the next round.

How have the other teams got on in their respective leagues?

NK Maribor

Since the last round of group games, NK Maribor have only played one league game, at home to Rudar Velenje, beating them courtesy of a penalty scored by Croat midfielder Dejan Mezga. NK Maribor have won their last five straight league games – but Blues will take hope in the comeback staged by Club Brugge at Ljudski vrt, with the Belgians getting four goals in the last eighteen minutes.

SC Braga

Braga have only played once since they beat Birmingham City by a solitary goal at Estadio Axa, beating Pacos Ferreira 5-2 at home, with goals from Alan, Lima (2, 1 pen), Hugo Viana and Paulo Cesar. Braga don’t normally travel well (only managing a draw in Slovenia), but the hope is that the Arsenalistas are gunning for revenge against a Brugge side who beat them in Portugal. They have named a strong squad for the game, which can be seen here.

Club Brugge

Brugge have played twice since they dramatically overcame NK Maribor in Slovenia, winning both games in the Jupiler League 1-0; away to Westerlo with a late late goal from Joseph Akpala, and then at home to Sint-Truiden with a 57th minute winner from Bjorn Vleminckx. The Belgians know that a draw will see them top of the group; however in an interview on the Belgian club site keeper Vladan Kujovic has stressed that they will be going for the win.

What team are Birmingham City likely to put out?

This is the big question. It’s kinda ironic, but in the one game where Blues put out pretty much their strongest team they went down in the meekest fashion, losing 1-0 away to Braga in Portugal. With no game after this one until Monday there is an argument that rotation to rest players isn’t required and as such we’ll see a strong line up.

I think it’s a given that Jonathan Spector will replace Stephen Carr at right back; and I would personally expect Pablo Ibanez to come in for Steven Caldwell at centre back. I think Jean Beausejour will be given the nod on the left side after being rested for a couple of games; I thought Elliott was pretty ordinary against Doncaster and I suspect he’ll be benched. With N’Daw coming off with cramp only in midweek I think he’ll maintain his spot in the middle, probably with Keith Fahey, and Chris Burke will keep his spot on the right. Up front is where I’m wondering what we’ll go with; personally I hope Hughton continues with the Wood/King combination as I think it’s starting to gel and maybe keeps Zigic on the bench to change things up should they need to be later on.

For those not able to get to the game, it will be broadcast live on ITV4, kick off at 8:05pm. As I’m not able to go myself, I’ll be liveblogging it here on Often Partisan, along with as much coverage on the Brugge v Braga game as I can find. Let’s hope this isn’t the end of our European tour – I quite fancy Spain in February…

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9 Responses to “Off to Partizan – Final Game Preview”

  • Violent Pacifist says:

    Hughton has to take some blame if we don’t qualify because some of his team selection and substitutions were plainly wrong,

    Had we played our strongest teams from the start in every euro game I believe we would be through already.

    Saying that whatever happens it has been the thrill of a lifetime watching Blues in Europe. Highlights for me were that first night out in Maderia and the last minute win at Bruges. Unforgettable and totally eclipsing my anglo italian trips.

    KRO fellow Blues

  • PannuMannu says:

    Hughton didn’t play his strongest teams in Bruges or Maribor and what happened there? He did in Braga and what happened there? that argument doesn’t stack up at all.

  • DevonBlueNose says:

    Personally I am hoping that he picks a very strong side, especially as I am travelling up from Devon to watch the game; I don’t get the opportunity to get to Birmingham that often these days.
    I agree that Wood/King is the best option up-front, and Burke retaining his place on the right. What I do really hope to see is Redmond given another go, at least as a substitute. Anyone know of a good curry house in Moseley, now that The Jewel in the Crown has shut??!!

  • AR says:

    Violent Pacifist seems always to be a glass half empty person, not a glass half full. We have done better than most expected & rotation has been done well.

  • skareggae72 says:

    Encouraging to see Braga selecting a strong squad,hopefully there mentality will be right too.
    Blues and Brugge have certainy gained a bit of a friendship over these euro-games,but when it comes to the crunch i hope we can scrape through above them,if we dont then the euro-experience has still been a positive one,certainly more more memorable than the old Anglo(aggro)Italian Cup

  • Wingman Blue says:

    Rather we go out than King/Wood or God forbid Myhill takes a knock. No wish to reenact the Grimsby Town days. It’s been good, but as CH says, promotion is our priority.

  • Poppa999 says:

    What a stupid system. So we could have lost both games to Maribor and still qualified (if we had got 10pts off Club Bruges and Braga)?

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