Birmingham City’s 21-goal top scorer Che Adams has become the player Blues hoped he would be this season, says fellow striker Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Back when Jutkiewicz scored the opener for Blues at Aston Villa in November, he was on 10 goals for the season, having netted two more than Adams.
Going into the rematch at St Andrew’s on Sunday, Jutkieiwicz has not scored since, but Adams has – 13 times.
“He’s someone who’s grown into himself this year,” Jutkiewicz told BBC WM.
“It’s been great playing with Che. He’s recognised what his strengths are and he’s playing to them. He’s playing aggressively, he’s full of confidence.
“We all knew he had that in him. We all knew he had so much ability and had that potential to be the powerhouse has and really take on the league and do what he wanted with it and it has been great to see him doing that.”
Adams’ six goals in February have earned him the Championship’s player of the month award.
There was reported interest in the former Sheffield United striker in January, but Blues boss Garry Monk said after the transfer window had closed there was “nothing of any significance for me to be concerned about”.
The Championship’s hot shots
It says everything about the rapport that Adams, 22, and Jutkiewicz, 29, have together that Blues boss Garry Monk sees them as a partnership – and has opted to keep their together, even though one half of that partnership is overdue a goal. Fit-again Isaac Vassell has also been available for selection for two months.
“Goals will always get the headlines,” Monk said. “But how they’ve been working as a partnership has grown throughout the season.
“As the spearhead of the team, they’ve contributed in every game.”
In fact, in this season’s Championship scoring charts, currently topped by 24-goal Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki, the combined tally of 31 goals by Adams and Jutkiewicz is bettered by only two other duos.
|33 – WBA: Jay Rodriguez (17) and Dwight Gayle (16),||33- Sheff Utd: Billy Sharp (22) and David McGoldrick (11)|
|31 – Birmingham City: Che Adams (21) and Lukas Jutkiewicz (10)||30 – Norwich City: Teemu Pukki (24) and Jordan Rhodes (6)|
|29 – Hull City: Jarrod Bowen (18) and Fraizer Campbell (11)||29 – Brentford: Neal Maupay (20) and Ollie Watkins (9)|
|27 – Aston Villa: Tammy Abraham (21) and Jonathan Kodjia (6)||22 – Blackburn: Bradley Dack and Danny Graham (11)|
How big is Sunday’s game?
After a summer of uncertainty, financial woes and even a transfer embargo, there would have been long odds on Blues finishing above Villa when this season began in August.
Even after Villa’s own unstable summer and the replacement of Steve Bruce as boss by Dean Smith, that would still have been the case when, in only the new man’s sixth game in charge, Villa came from behind to beat Blues 4-2 in November.
But Monk has somehow kept Blues on an even keel, despite all the continued speculation about a potential points penalty for financial indiscretions over the size of their wage bill.
And, having ended that Sunday at Villa Park three points behind, Blues go into the return game two points better off than their city rivals, in eighth, but knowing that defeat would mean getting leapfrogged again by Villa.
“The league is so tight,” said Jutkiewicz. “There are so many teams within a result of each other and it’s difficult to analyse until the season is finished.
“But it’s important to come out of the other side of the game on Sunday still ahead.
“When the fixtures come out, this is the one you look for. A huge game, with an incredible atmosphere. It is especially important to not only put in a good performance, but take the three points.”
Lukas Jutkiewicz was talking to BBC WM’s Richard Wilford