Cardiff vs Birmingham predictions: Bluebirds and Blues may cancel each other out
From opening day euphoria to being booed off – Cardiff boss Steve Morison will have expected some ups and down as his new-look team settles but the first 10 days of 2022-23 provided a rollercoaster ride that maybe even he wasn’t ready for.
The Bluebirds stunned title favourites Norwich on the opening weekend of the Championship, winning 1-0, but followed up with defeat at relegation-fancied Reading and then suffered humiliation in the Carabao Cup, losing 3-0 at home to League One Portsmouth.
However, even that seems relatively serene when compared to the state of affairs at Birmingham.
With the ownership of the club up in the air, a stadium still part closed due to safety issues and a manager sacked two weeks into pre-season, Blues fans would scoff at the idea that Morison's men have faced adversity in the early days of the new campaign.
That makes it all the more impressive that Birmingham, led by John Eustace in his first senior managerial role at EFL level, sit third in the Championship following a victory over Huddersfield and a respectable draw at Luton.
Eustace's men also put in a far better showing than expected in the League Cup, battling back from 2-0 down against Norwich to take the tie to penalties.
Therefore, it would be a brave supporter on either side to say they can confidently predict what their club might serve up next.
Cardiff defender Perry Ng returns from suspension but new signing Vontae Daley-Campbell is now out for three matches following his red card on debut in the EFL Cup.
Fellow new arrival Ebou Adams is out for a couple of months with a pectoral muscle injury, while Isaak Davies, who was the subject of a £2.5m bid from Burnley in midweek, remains short of match fitness.
Birmingham manager Eustace is likely to still be without summer signing Krystian Bielik, who is working his way back from injury.
Gary Gardner, Harlee Dean and Nico Gordon have yet to make a matchday squad this season and it is unlikely any of them will return against Cardiff.
Eustace named the same line-up in both league games so far and, after resting many of those players in midweek in the Carabao Cup, he is likely to return to his preferred Championship XI for the trip to Wales.
While Birmingham were often outclassed against the better Championship teams last season, they lost just five of 22 matches against teams who finished in the bottom half.
Indeed, the Blues' biggest issue last term was their failure to convert draws into wins, with only two Championship sides drawing more games than Birmingham, who finished six points behind Cardiff despite losing two games fewer.
Cardiff survived quite comfortably last season but only thanks to their strong away form – only bottom-placed Barnsley had a worse Championship home record than the Bluebirds.
While both meetings between Cardiff and Birmingham ended all square in 2021-22, the Bluebirds had to come from behind in both meetings.
They clawed their way back from 2-0 down at St Andrew's in December and needed a late penalty to claim a 1-1 draw against the Blues in Cardiff's final home game of the campaign.
Despite the background uncertainty, there is a growing sense of togetherness among the Birmingham players.
That is partly a result of the stability within the squad, which saw relatively few changes this summer due to the complex ownership situation at St Andrew's.
But there also appears to be something of a siege mentality forming, which could prove a huge asset in the battle against relegation.
Cardiff's prospects look rosier but Morison undertook a squad overhaul in his first summer at the club so it has to be expected that results will fluctuate in the short term.
And with Eustace stating his first priority is to make Birmingham extremely hard to play against – a quality they were not entirely devoid of last season – it would be no surprise if their latest clash with a hit-and-miss Cardiff side produced a scrappy encounter and a third successive stalemate.