Birmingham City dropped like a stone in the final weeks of last season, following the announcement that Pep Clotet would be leaving, but there's plenty of optimism amongst the Blues faithful that a better season can be expected this time round.
Much of that centres on the appointment of Aitor Karanka as the Club's new Head Coach coupled with the addition of seven new players over the summer. George Friend, Jonathan Leko, Jon Toral, Adam Clayton, Andres, Ivan Sanchez, and Neil Etheridge have all come in the door at St Andrew's in the past month.
Jude Bellingham's July departure to Borussia Dortmund was their major piece of outgoing business, the attacker leaving as the world's most expensive 17-year-old in July. Scott Hogan, who netted seven times in 17 games, returned to Aston Villa at the end of his loan spell with Birmingham still hoping to persuade him to cross the second city again this campaign.
After three years as assistant manager to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, Aitor Karanka was appointed manager of Middlesbrough in November 2013. He was the first non-British man in charge at The Riverside in their history.
He earned promotion with them in 2016 but he was sacked less than a year later with The Teesiders three points from Premier League safety and without a win in three months. After nine months out of the game he was appointed Forest manager in January 2018.
He lasted just a year at The City Ground, leaving the Club seventh in the second tier when he departed. Following an 18-month break from football, Karanka replaced Pep Clotet in July, his third Championship job.
The 42-year-old played as a defender for Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid and Colorado Rapids before pursuing a career in management. Capped once by Spain, he also represented his country at youth level alongside the likes of Fernando Morientes and Raúl.
Mads Roerslev will be absent due to a foot injury while David Raya has missed the last three matches with a knock.
For Birmingham, Lukas Jutkiewicz has recovered sufficiently from a quad injury to be involved tomorrow, although Karanka admits he won't be able to play 90 minutes; 18-year-old Adam George will deputise for him at some stage. Gary Gardner is likely to miss out but Jeremie Bela will be available following a shoulder issue.
🆚 Birmingham Live's Brian Dick previews the Blues
⚖ Tony Harrington will be the man in charge tomorrow