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Preview: Nottingham Forest v Blues

Aitor Karanka returns to a club he managed for 12 months.

BCFC

Blues will be looking to win for a second time in three Boxing Day outings and in turn land an extra Christmas present when they visit Nottingham Forest on December’s 26th day.

Saturday’s visit to the City Ground is the penultimate fixture in a hectic month where Blues have already travelled with success. Victory at Bristol City was backed up by a further three points in Reading, as Aitor Karanka was given the LMA Performance of the Week Award for his team’s efforts in Berkshire.

And eager for more success on the road, they cross the Midlands for a match that pits together two teams who are looking to progress up the table under the guidance of men who have managed both clubs.

In the Red corner is a familiar face, with former Blues boss Chris Hughton now in charge of Forest. Likewise, Head Coach Karanka returns to a club he managed for 12 months until departing in January 2019.

Linked in the dugouts, the two sides also hold similar recent records having picked up a win apiece in their last four Sky Bet Championship games and are separated by just three places in the table. Last weekend, Blues suffered defeat at the hands of in-form Middlesbrough, whilst Forest took a point at Millwall.

THE OPPOSITION:

Despite missing out on the play-offs by virtue of goal difference last season, it has been a testing start for the Tricky Trees which resulted in the dismissal of Sabri Lamouchi in October. But quick to move on - just 30 minutes after the Frenchman’s departure - Nottingham Forest appointed Chris Hughton as their new manager.

In his first game in charge, they scored a late winner at Blackburn, before going unbeaten in the next three. However, Forest’s form has been up and down since, including a run of seven matches without a win between November and December that was ended with a 2-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday 11 days ago.

Possessing a large squad, consistency is now key for Forest in their bid to climb the table. This comes in the form of both results and squad selection, with only two players having featured in every league match this season. Of these two, goalkeeper Brice Samba has played all 1,800 minutes of Championship action and Lyle Taylor is top scorer with four goals.

The former Charlton man is supported by forward-thinking midfielders including Joe Lolley, Sammy Ameobi and Anthony Knockaert, with the latter a part of Hughton’s Brighton side which gained promotion from the second tier in 2017.

LAST TIME OUT:

Blues tasted defeat to Middlesbrough at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium in their final game before Christmas. Although, it appeared it would be a different story after Maxime Colin’s superbly taken opener. Scott Hogan very nearly added a second before Boro scored twice in five first-half minutes to turn the tide. Neil Warnock’s side went on to add goals three and four after the break.

In South London, Nottingham Forest came from behind to earn a point at Millwall. Tom Bradshaw put the Lions in front shortly after the interval, only for Hughton’s men to respond just 180 seconds later as Alex Mighten scored his first senior goal.

WE MEET AGAIN:

Nottingham Forest 3 Blues 0, 17 August 2019

Blues will be determined to record a better result than on their last visit to the City Ground.

There had been a bright start for Pep Clotet’s side with Lukas Jutkiewicz having two early efforts, but it was Forest who took the lead with a quarter of an hour played.

Redditch-born Lolley converted a neat free-kick routine and seven minutes later turned provider for Lewis Grabban – setting the Reds on their way to a first league win under Lamouchi.

Four-time England international Michael Dawson rounded off the scoring after the break with Forest’s third, as Blues lost for only the first time in ten Championship matches dating back to the previous season.

BLUES TEAM NEWS:

Zach Jeacock (ankle), Caolan Boyd-Munce (thigh), George Friend (leg) and Josh McEachran (groin) all miss out.

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Blues wins: 41

Draws: 34

Nottingham Forest wins: 43

LAST FIVE MEETINGS:

Championship 01 Feb 2020 – Blues 2 Nottingham Forest 1

Championship 17 Aug 2019 – Nottingham Forest 3 Blues 0

Championship 02 Feb 2019 – Blues 2 Nottingham Forest 0

Championship 25 Aug 2018 – Nottingham Forest 2 Blues 2

Championship 03 Mar 2018 – Nottingham Forest 2 Blues 1

BLUESTV:

Supporters can watch this game live on BluesTV for only £10.

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Referee – Jeremy Simpson

Assistant referees - Ian Cooper and Bhupinder Gill

Fourth Official - David Richardson

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