Farke expects Blues to survive as City head back to St Andrew's
- Credit: Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The well-worn pitch of St Andrew’s Stadium awaits Norwich City for a second time in seven days on Tuesday evening, with Daniel Farke preparing for another tough test, against a Birmingham City team he expects to avoid relegation.
The Championship leaders beat Coventry 2-0 at St Andrew’s on Wednesday, as the Blues ground-share with their survival rivals, which puts added strain on the pitch.
Farke’s satisfaction with that result grew at the weekend when Coventry beat City’s promotion rivals Brentford 2-0 on that same pitch
“This shows how priceless our performance and result was against Coventry,” said the Canaries boss. “I had spoken before the game that they had lost just one of their last 10 home games, then the next home game after us they were able to win.
“I think they were also there with many clean sheets in their last home games, so this says a lot about our performance, not just in the two goals but the chances we created, we were there with a fantastic performance.
“We need the same level of performance, that’s definitely for sure, but also in a different way because Birmingham in terms of their approach and also their style of play is really different in comparison to Coventry.
“Birmingham is a big club with an unbelievably experienced coach on this level, many experienced players. At the moment they are also fighting a bit against relegation.
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“But I’m sure with this quality of players and this experienced coach - I value Aitor Karanka a lot - that they will finish in mid-table, I am quite sure about this.”
The Blues finished a miserable run of just one win in 13 matches as they won 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, with their relegation rivals reduced to 10 men early in the second half and Scott Hogan scoring the only goal 13 minutes later.
Farke continued: “Of course there is a bit of pressure at the moment because they won the last game with a clean sheet but there were games before when they were not that great and it’s quite normal that in this league you can slip away a bit and be in a bit of a difficult situation.
“It doesn’t take anything away from that this team is unbelievably difficult to beat and even the last eight games, when you judge their results they have won just two out of their last eight games but they don’t concede many goals.
“There was one game when Bournemouth scored three against them, all the other games were pretty tight. There were some clean sheets and draws, and it’s always difficult because Aitor Karanka was able to create a good set-up where his team are well structured and well organised, unbelievably compact against the ball and also dangerous out of the counter-attack.
“For that we have to be spot on, move the ball quickly, on a pitch that is not easy to do this. It does not play that much in our favour but we can’t choose and we can’t change this so we have to make sure we try to speed up the game as much as possible on probably a difficult pitch.
“It could be a difficult task and we have to be spot on but also to be spot on again in terms of our defensive behaviour because I don’t think Birmingham will allow us to have many chances and if we can keep a clean sheet that is more or less the first step to driving away with a good result.
“We have to make sure that we find gaps and are pretty clinical in using our chances.”
The game against Coventry also continued the leaders’ magical mystery tour of unusual away dressing rooms, with clubs trying to keep opposing squads separate as much as possible away from the game to meet Covid-19 regulations.
At Millwall it was a sports hall next to The Den, at Stoke it was a mobile unit, at Birmingham it’s a carpeted hospitality suite within one of the stands – with access to the pitch via concrete steps, for players wearing football boots.
“It’s a bit strange and sometimes you find it really hard to accept what some clubs are doing, but also no complaints about St Andrew’s, it’s up to the rules,” Farke continued with a smile about the unusual situations away teams have encountered in the past year.
“Sometimes you find it a bit difficult in an away dressing room like in a sports hall (at Millwall) – it was colder in this hall than outside! You spend a lot of time there in preparation and sometimes as a head coach you are a bit concerned about someone getting a cold or something like this.
“So sometimes I get the feeling, with all respect, that some clubs are trying to get the focus and the concentration a little bit away from the game but this is nothing that should affect us anyhow.
“We don’t need any posh dressing rooms. Football is pretty traditional and an easy game, so it’s totally okay, we don’t need any comfortable or posh dressing rooms, we just need a changing room.
“It doesn’t matter, when it’s kick-off we just focus on the game and it’s not important if the dressing room is unbelievably nice, like when you play at the new Tottenham stadium it’s always fantastic, there’s lots of space and everything looks really posh and great.
“It’s not important, we can also be in a tiny, old-fashioned, dirty dressing room – and they are even sometimes a bit better to create team spirit. We don’t need any luxury and also no-one can take our concentration away.
“Everyone is struggling a bit with the protocols during these strange times and of course I would prefer to be allowed to stay in the normal away dressing room at Birmingham but at the moment it seems the protocols don’t allow this, so right now we are in the bar.
“As long as there is no alcohol in the bar for the players beforehand, or straight away after the game if we have to play again two days later, then I am totally fine with this!”