Top half challengers – goal-shy Birmingham could struggle
Birmingham were one of the surprise success stories of the last Premier League season, and the Blues will be out to confound their critics once again this term.
Joe Hart’s performances last season earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year but the England international has returned to parent club Manchester City.
Birmingham have replaced Hart with another promising English prospect, Ben Foster, who has joined permanently from Manchester United. Goalkeeping should again be a strong area for the Blues, who are 10/1 to finish in the top six.
Roger Johnson and Scott Dann formed one of the strongest centre-back partnerships in the Premier League last season, and the duo will again provide Birmingham with a solid foundation.
Despite his advancing years, Stephen Carr proved to be a canny free signing at right-back, though the veteran’s lack of pace could be a problem.
Birmingham could only muster 38 goals last season, which is the lowest ever total from a team to have finished as high as ninth.
As McLeish only tends to play with one striker, the midfield will need to contribute to the goal tally, but if Sebastian Larsson and Lee Bowyer fail to find the net often enough, the Blues could struggle. They are 6/1 to be relegated.
A strength of theirs in this area, however, is the industry of Barry Ferguson and Craig Gardner, who afford their opponents no time on the ball, and are decent passers themselves.
Cameron Jerome was their main source of goals last season, and the former Cardiff marksman is 66/1 to be the Premier League’s top scorer this season.
Other than Jerome, though, Birmingham have little in terms of attackers, and new signing Nikola Zigic will need to make an instant impact following the departure of Christian Benitez.
Who do you think will go down this year? West Brom are evens to be relegated. See the full Barclays Premier League Betting Odds market.