Birmingham vs Reading predictions: Royals will struggle to break the Blues
- Birmingham are solid under John Eustace but have been frustrated by a lot of draws
- Reading have managed back-to-back wins but were unconvincing against Coventry
- Recommended bet: Draw
Reading returned from the World Cup break with a welcome 1-0 victory over Coventry last weekend but next face a Birmingham side who have been hard to beat this season under John Eustace.
The victory over the Sky Blues gave Royals manager Paul Ince much-needed back-to-back wins either side of the break but he will not have been fooled into thinking it was a convincing performance.
Coventry had the better chances in that match and hit the post shortly before the Royals grabbed the winner against the run of play.
The Royals now face a tricky trip to Birmingham, who have lost just one of their last six matches and have been a tough team to beat in 2022-23.
Eustace will have been frustrated to see so many promising performances fail to bring Blues all three points but, after so many seasons of struggle, they will just be pleased to currently be clear of the relegation scrap.
His team was again frustrated upon the resumption, drawing 0-0 at Blackpool, and Birmingham will be looking for a statement victory over Reading to propel themselves into the play-off picture.
Birmingham will be without midfielder Przemyslaw Placheta and defender Harlee Dean, who are both expected to return at the end of the month.
Midfielder Gary Gardner and defender Nico Gordon are close to fitness but George Friend has suffered a setback and it may be another couple of weeks before he is available.
However, in better news for Eustace, top scorer Scott Hogan could be ready to return from a hamstring issue
Reading will be without midfielders Dejan Tetek and Ovie Ejaria, winger Femi Azeez and centre-backs Liam Moore and Tom Holmes, with the latter suffering a concussion against Coventry.
Scott Dann may be rushed back into action to fill the void at centre-back and Sam Hutchinson is also closing in on a return to bolster the backline.
Each of the last four matches between Reading and Birmingham have ended 2-1, with Reading winning both meetings in 2021-22 and Birmingham winning both 2020-21 encounters.
Reading’s home victory over Coventry last weekend was somewhat fortunate, with the visitors bossing 60% possession, producing more shots, more shots on target, hitting the post and outperforming Reading on expected goals.
That was only Reading’s third win in 11 Championship matches, while their victory against fourth-from-bottom Hull just prior to the World Cup break was their first in six Championship away games, with the rest bringing four defeats and a draw.
Birmingham have won only one of their last eight games, including just one of their last five on home soil.
While Ince will have been delighted to bookend the World Cup break with a 2-1 win at Hull and a 1-0 victory over Coventry, the results mask a couple of unimpressive performances in which the Royals were fortunate to collect six points.
They could easily have drawn, or even lost, both games and prior to that they had taken just five points from nine Championship outings.
Eustace is making Blues a hard team to break down, with the West Midlands side losing just two of their last 10 league matches.
A look at over 2.5 goals could be of interest, with each of the last six meetings between the sides over the past three seasons seeing at least three goals, but the best bet is to back the draw — available at 11/5 with LiveScore Bet.
Reading would probably take a point from their trip to St Andrew's, while Blues have lacked the quality to get wins over the line but have shown commendable fighting spirit to register just seven defeats all season — only five second-tier teams have lost fewer.