Meet the opposition | Birmingham City
As Swansea City prepare to host Birmingham City in their first home game of the season, we take a closer look at the Blues.
What’s their story?
Birmingham have spent the majority of their 141-year history in the top-flight, but are currently starting their 10th-straight season in the Championship after dropping out of the Premier League in 2011.
They have finished higher than 10th on only one occasion during that time and they have battled relegation in four of the previous seven campaigns.
The St Andrew's club have won two FA Cups and two League Cups, with the most recent of those successes coming in 2011 when they stunned Arsenal in the League Cup final at Wembley as Obafemi Martins scored a last-gasp winner.
How’s their form?
The Blues made an excellent start to the league season by beating last season’s play-off finalists Brentford 1-0 at St Andrew’s, which lifted spirits after the Carabao Cup exit against Cambridge the previous weekend.
They endured a challenging end to last season as a worrying run of form threatened to drag them into the thick of a relegation battle.
Indeed, the win over the Bees was Birmingham’s first in 15 Championship matches and was an ideal start in Aitor Karanka’s first game at the helm.
Who’s the boss?
Aitor Karanka. The Spaniard was appointed in the summer following the departure of Pep Clotet.
The 46-year-old enjoyed a successful playing career with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid – winning three Champions Leagues with the latter – before making the move into management.
He worked as Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid before striking out on his own at Middlesbrough – where he won promotion to the Premier League – and Nottingham Forest, before his recent appointment at St Andrew’s.
Who’s the captain?
Harlee Dean. The 29-year-old defender has made over 120 appearances for the Blues since joining from Brentford in 2017.
Dean first broke through at Dagenham & Redbridge before having a handful of non-league loan spells.
He was snapped up by then-League One Southampton in 2010, but it was at Brentford where he really made his mark, helping the Bees rise from League One to become regular play-off challengers in the Championship.
Was made captain by Dean Smith prior to his move to Birmingham.
Who are the key men?
Former Everton striker Lukas Jutkiewicz has led the line for the Blues since joining in 2017, and ended last season as top scorer with 15 league goals.
And Karanka has further bolstered his forward options after completing the signing of Scott Hogan during the week.
Jeremie Bela has made an impression since his arrival from Albacete last November, while Karanka has brought in the experience of defender George Friend and midfielder Adam Clayton having worked with the pair at Middlesbrough.
The Blues also recently signed goalkeeper Neil Etheridge from Cardiff, as well as former Hull forward Jon Toral.