MX23RW : Sunday, April 21 04:49:58| >> :600:116844733:116844733:
Aug 8, 2015 at 3pm UK at ​St Andrew's
BirminghamBirmingham City
Cotterill (40'), Toral (47')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Blackman (58')

Preview: Birmingham City vs. Reading

Sports Mole previews the Championship fixture at St Andrew's between Birmingham City and Reading.

Birmingham City boss Gary Rowett will be eager to get his side off to a positive start when they get their Championship campaign underway against Reading at St Andrew's.

Rowett guided the West Midlands outfit to a respectable 10th-place finish last season, but they will be aware that they come up against a Reading outfit who will be desperate to atone for their disappointing showings during the last two months of the previous campaign.

Birmingham City

Gary Rowett of Birmingham City looks on during the pre season friendly match between Nuneaton Town and Birmingham City at the James Parnell Stadium on July 14, 2015© Getty Images

When Rowett took over at St Andrew's last season, Birmingham looked certainties to become embroiled in a relegation battle, but since October, the former Burton Albion chief has established the Blues as a mid-table club.

The long-term ambition of the club's hierarchy and supporters will be a top-six place - like many clubs in the division - but given the modest amount of funds made available to him, Rowett has, so far, performed a minor miracle.

There will be slight reservations about the players brought into the club, but with plenty of Championship experience between them, they could lead Birmingham to mid-table respectability for a second successive season.

Pre-season began well for the Blues, but their last two results would have inevitably hit their confidence heading into the new season. After losing 2-0 at Burton Albion, they let slip a two-goal lead against Premier League Leicester City to conclude their preparations.

The spectacular strikes from David Cotterill and Demarai Gray - two of their key players - were positives but they will be desperate for an improved showing at the back on Saturday afternoon to prevent belief in their ranks being hit on a permanent basis.

Recent form: WDDWLL


Reading manager Steve Clarke during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Reading at The Amex Stadium on December 26, 2014© Getty Images

Reading's run to the FA Cup semi-finals last season was a terrific achievement, but they were unable to enjoy their achievement after such a disappointing conclusion in the league, with just two wins being recorded in their final 14 games.

They survived relegation, but it left them with plenty of rebuilding work for the summer and Clarke has obliged by freshening up his squad.

Adam Federici, Alex Pearce and Jem Karacan are notable departures, but they have been replaced with quality additions in Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn, both of whom should become permanent fixtures in the starting lineup.

Ali Al-Habsi and Jonathan Bond will battle it out for the goalkeeper's jersey and Orlando Sa could prove to be a shrewd signing in attack, leaving Clarke ultimately content with his business during the transfer window.

Just the one win has been recorded in pre-season - away at Bristol Rovers - but Clarke will be relatively happy having held Espanyol to a draw last weekend.

After ending last season in 19th place, Reading would be pushed to do worse than last season's effort, but they will ultimately have eyes on the playoffs and will be keen to begin the season on the front foot.

Recent form: DWDLD

Team News

Paul McShane for Hull on November 1, 2014© Getty Images

After impressing against Leicester, new signing Maikel Kieftenbeld is a likely starter in midfield, which may mean that David Davis will have to make do with a place on the bench.

He could be joined on the sidelines by Jacques Maghoma and Jon Toral, who are also recent additions to the squad at the Blues.

As for Reading, McShane, Quinn and Sa all look definites for the starting XI, but it remains to be seen who will be chosen to begin the season in goal.

However, both midfielder Garath McCleary and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak miss out through fitness problems.

Birmingham City possible starting lineup:
Kuszczak, Caddis, Spector, Morrison, Grounds, Cotterill, Gleeson, Kieftenbald, Gray; Shinnie; Donaldson

Reading possible starting lineup:
Bond, Gunter, Obita, McShane, Ferdinand, Tshibola, Norwood, Quinn, Williams, Blackman, Sa

Head To Head

The Blues and the Royals have met on 30 previous occasions, which has seen both sides record 10 victories apiece with the other 10 fixtures ending in draws.

Last season, Birmingham did the double over the Berkshire outfit, but before that, Reading had won six of the previous nine encounters.

At St Andrew's, Birmingham have prevailed in just six of 15 fixtures, with Reading closely behind with five triumphs to their name.

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We say: Birmingham City 1-1 Reading

With both teams throwing up a mixture of pre-season results, this match is difficult to call. Birmingham are perhaps the narrow favourites but after letting slip a two-goal advantage against Leicester in the final friendly, confidence cannot be as high as it should be.

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Who will win Saturday's Championship fixture between Birmingham and Reading?

General view of the Madjeski Stadium ahead of the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Leicester City at Madejski Stadium on April 14, 2014
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