Stoke v Birmingham preview
Last Updated: 19/10/18 11:41am
Stoke's international players returned without injury, but boss Gary Rowett admits there are "one or two little knocks" ahead of the home clash with Birmingham.
Speaking about the international break, Rowett added: "It's always a challenge because you can get work done…but the reality is that you have only nine or 10 players. We've had players back after a variety of travel but they've all trained, some for different lengths of sessions."
Midfielder Sam Clucas will not be rushed back following a lengthy absence with a knee injury that required surgery, while Ibrahim Afellay (also knee) remains sidelined. It remains to be seen whether skipper Ryan Shawcross comes back into the Potters' starting line-up having sat out the last four matches.
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Birmingham boss Garry Monk has been boosted by the news that Isaac Vassell should be back with the squad within the next fortnight. Striker Vassell has not played for almost a year after a knee injury was followed by a hip problem during his rehabilitation.
Midfielder Craig Gardner should be in contention to face Stoke after a spell on the sidelines with a knock. "Craig has been back in training throughout the international break, that's good. Everyone else is fine. There's just David Davis, who is a little bit longer away from getting back into action," said Monk.
This is the 100th meeting between Stoke and Birmingham in all competitions - since their first meeting in October 1894, the Potters have won 42 and the Blues won 32 of 99 matches between the sides (D25).
Birmingham have kept clean sheets in seven of their last eight league matches against Stoke (W5 D2 L1).
Stoke manager Gary Rowett hasn't lost against Birmingham since he left the club in 2016, winning two and drawing once against the Blues, facing a different manager each time (Zola, Carsley and Cotterill).
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This will be the third Championship meeting between Gary Rowett and Garry Monk in the last three seasons - Rowett has won the other two, with both managers in charge of different clubs each time (Leeds 1-2 Birmingham in 2016-17 and Middlesbrough 0-3 Derby in 2017-18).
Stoke are looking to win three consecutive league matches for the first time since October 2016.
Birmingham striker Lukas Jutkiewicz has scored 10 Championship goals since Garry Monk's first match in charge in March - only Lewis Grabban (11) and Neal Maupay (14) have scored more since then.
Have Stoke finally turned a corner? It was a very frustrating time for the international break to come around for Gary Rowett because they finally won back-to-back games and have now had to wait a fortnight for this one!
Birmingham are another side to have drawn a few too many times this season, but even though they are 17th in the table they are as many points off the play-offs as they are above the relegation zone. I reckon Garry Monk could turn up with Rowett's old side and frustrate them in the Potteries.
David Prutton predicts: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)