Talking Tactics | Birmingham City v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a closer look at the form of Ryan Bennett, and assess the role he can play in Swansea City's Championship clash with Birmingham City on Friday night (8pm).
In the build up to the international break, things didn't go quite according to plan for Swansea City.
A 1-0 defeat in the south Wales derby in the final match before the domestic hiatus means the Swans return to league duties on Good Friday on a run of one win in four. They still have a game in hand over those around them in the promotion push, but are now six points behind Watford in second, so victory at Birmingham this week is vital.
Fortunately for the Swans, Birmingham can be considered a hospitable opponent to face on the back of the international break. Swansea are unbeaten in their last six competitive meetings with the Midlands side - three of which have come at St. Andrew's - picking up two wins in that time.
Birmingham currently sit just three points and one place above the relegation zone going intoFriday's meeting, but will hope the appointment of Lee Bowyer gives them the boost needed to stave off the drop. Bowyer oversaw a 2-1 win over Reading on his debut as Blues boss, but went into the international break on the back of a 3-0 loss to Watford.
Having had two additional weeks to work with his new players, Bowyer is hoping to have translated his managerial ideas across to the squad, which can only be a good thing for Birmingham. However, the former Charlton boss needs to work hard to rectify his new side's goal woes if they are to consolidate a Championship spot.
Indeed, only Wycombe (12) have scored fewer home goals than Birmingham (14) in England's second tier this term, while Birmingham foot the home league table having picked up just 15 points from 19 games at St. Andrew's.
Birmingham's profligacy has seen them develop a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com weakness of 'finishing scoring chances' and considering Swansea's fine defensive record this season - only Watford (26) and Norwich (27) have conceded fewer goals than Steve Cooper's side (29) - the south Wales side should have what it takes to return home with a clean sheet in tow.
Cooper will look to Ryan Bennett's experience once more in Swansea's bid to get their promotion push back on track. The 31-year-old has garnered a WhoScored.com rating of 7.01 this season, that the third best of all Swansea players, and he is set to face Birmingham for a sixth time in his career this week.
Bennett has been on the losing side just once in his five meetings with Birmingham, while the side he has played for at the time have won the last two games against the Blues, keeping a clean sheet in those two victories.
The Swansea centre-back needs to be on top of his game if he is to deny striker Scott Hogan from adding to his six league goals, despite a dry run in front of goal. Hogan is Birmingham's top scorer in this season, but has scored just once in his last 10 league outings and has hit the back of the net twice in his 15 home appearances this term - those coming in home defeats to Bournemouth and Barnsley.
A 10-game home goalless run is one Hogan will be keen to end, but with Bennett able to call upon his Premier League knowhow, Swansea have the means to return to SA1 with another shut out.
And ifSteve Cooper's frontmen are firing on all cylinders, then they can take all the spoils too, making this Good Friday a great one in the process.