Birmingham v Swansea Tips: Bennett to find the book in the Midlands
Good Friday’s final bit of action in the second tier takes place in the Midlands as relegation stricken Birmingham City welcome promotion hopefuls Swansea City to St Andrew’s at 20:00.
I’ve got three card fancies for this game but it is worth noting that as I write not all bookies have priced this market so it might be worth shopping around for the best odds.
The visitors’ charge back to the promised land gained traction in mid December, then really hit top gear when they secured the services of Conor Hourihane on loan from Aston Villa in January.
They went on an unbeaten run of nine games - taking 23 points from a possible 27 - beating the likes of Watford, Barnsley and Norwich as they rose to second in the table. However, the wheels began to buckle in Yorkshire as they were thrashed 4-1 to Huddersfield and since then they have lost four of their last nine games and fallen six points off the pace in the race for automatic promotion.
Steve Cooper may be without Hourihane for this one - who is a major doubt with a hamstring injury - elsewhere Morgan Whittaker should keep his spot up front.
The hosts currently dwell in 21st place, three points above Rotherham who have four games in hand. Aitor Karanka’s tenure turned stale this campaign and his lacklustre stint ended with a 3-0 defeat at home to Bristol City. Lee Bowyer was appointed as his predecessor and has taken three points from his first two games.
Bowyer’s managerial record may suggest that he is not the man for a long term project, however, his tenacious credentials make him perfect for a dog fight and he could be the perfect man to steer the Blues clear of relegation. Despite the fact that Birmingham have no new injuries, Bowyer could switch from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 to match Swansea’s three in midfield. This could see Mikel San Jose come in at the expense of Scott Hogan or Lukas Jutkiewicz.
The referee for this clash is Tony Harrington. He has averaged 2.89Y and 0.15R cards per game this season, however, as we approach the business end and the games heat up so has his pocket. Harrington has banished 18Y and two red cards in his last four games and given the importance of this clash at both ends of the table we could see a flurry of cards here.
In terms of cards, I like bet365's price of 5/1 for Rekeem Harper to go into the book. Harper has made 12 appearances for Birmingham since joining from West Brom on loan. He has played a total of 855 minutes and received three cautions meaning he has averaged a card just over every three games.
Harper has predominantly featured at LCM for the hosts which would pit him against Connor Roberts tomorrow evening. Swansea’s right wing back has been one of their stand out performers this season and he is just as useful at both ends of the pitch. The Welshman has drawn an average of 1.9 fouls per game this season, making him Swansea’s most fouled player, and will keep young Harper busy.
Sticking with cards I also like the look of Ryan Bennett’s price for a caution at 4/1 with William Hill. The card prices appear to be quite similar for the majority of players priced up in the fixture, however, bet365 and Unibet both have Bennett considerably shorter at 13/5 and 3/1 respectively.
In his last four seasons, Bennett has accumulated 29 cards in 107 starts meaning that he has been cautioned in over a quarter of his appearances since 2017. This campaign he has picked up seven yellows in 21 league starts. Therefore, his price does hold some value as it suggests that the implied probability of this landing is 20%.
If Bowyer opts for two up front, Bennett will have to contend with both the physicality of Lukas Jutkiewicz and the pace Scott Hogan which could prove a tricky task for a player prone to cards.
You can combine the previous two selections using William Hill’s ‘#BuildYourOdds’ feature at odds of 30/1 and I think this is worth a small play.
Best of luck if you are backing any of these selections and please remember to gamble responsibly.