Benedict Ferraby / @bf1904
Grant McCann’s men take on a Birmingham City side in the Championship. The visitors have endured an inconsistent patch recently after suffering back-to-back home defeats to QPR and West Brom. Whilst the Tigers arrive into this contest after salvaging a point at the death against Charlton Athletic; teenage sensation Keane Lewis-Potter climbed highest to reward an under par performance with a point. City, however, will be hoping for a better performance this weekend as they look to close the gap on the play-off places.
Battle of the youngsters
Both sides also boast some of the youngsters who have had an impressive breakthrough this season for their clubs, Keane Lewis-Potter and Jude Bellingham.
Lewis-Potter will be eager to make his first competitive start for City after impressing in brief stints. The Hull born forward has already struck twice off the bench this season and is edging closer to a starting spot. KLP offers attributes that the other forwards don’t possess, easy on the eye in possession and offers an outlet beyond the opposition back line with his natural pace. With Magennis expected to make a return on Boxing Day and Norbert Balogh on the periphery of a long anticipated return, KLP is likely to feature off the bench regularly after taking his opportunities. Though the young forward has impressed McCann, he is expected to start Tom Eaves again.
Pep Clotet also has the option to use Jude Bellingham in his starting 11 on Saturday, Bellingham is the youngest ever Birmingham City player to feature and score. After registering earlier on in the season, Clotet has utilised Bellingham in a deeper role since, he acts as the defensive screen for Birmingham’s attacking players to flourish.
Birmingham also have Odin Bailey, a dynamic young midfielder as an option who has also impressed for his hometown club since breaking onto the scene and netting against Boro.
One of the key aspects of where this encounter can be won and lost is the physicality of both teams, especially at the back and in the forward areas.
Last season, Lukas Jutkiewicz was kept quiet by Jordy De Wijs and Reece Burke in both encounters, despite losing his strike partner Che Adams, he still remains one of Birmingham’s biggest threats. It will be interesting to see whether Birmingham alter their tactical approach to combat City’s counter-attacking threats. Lucas Jutkiewicz managed to score from a set piece last time out and this appears to be a profitable route to goal for the Blues.
Hull have conceded a few goals from crosses this season, so maybe Clotet will see that as a potential goal scoring avenue they can exploit. Similarly, Tom Eaves will also be up against some strong defenders, notably Harlee Dean. Whether Eaves can force some change out of the Birmingham back line, could prove to be a deciding factor in this encounter.
Hull: Long, Lichaj, De Wijs, Burke, Elder, Batty, Da Silva, Irvine, Bowen, Grosicki, Eaves
Birmingham: Trueman, Colin, Dean, Bajrami, Pederson, Bela, Sunjic, Davis, Montero, Jutkiewicz, Giminez