Preview: Birmingham (Away)

The recent takeover of Birmingham City by a Hong Kong consortium led by Carson Yeung will provide an added edge to a game in which we'll be hoping to end our run of draws and secure all three points to move into the top four. Whether their new owners are as true to their word as ours have been will have to be seen, but so far the knocking off of a few pence from ticket prices, the promise of a whopping £20m transfer kitty, and a win over the mighty Sunderland seems to be keeping the locals happy.

St. Andrews is a ground we've had our fair share of luck at over the years, a couple of dodgy penalty decisions in recent seasons aside, and with all due respect to our hosts we should hope to be coming away with all three points, as Bolton and city-rivals Aston Villa both already have. With most of the sides around us dropping points this weekend, a victory would see us push clear still with a game in hand, and be a good start to a month that will hopefully prove quite fruitful.

Captain Kolo Toure should return to the centre of a defence which has began to leak bad goals. His assured presence could aid Joleon Lescott, who's still very much finding his feet. McLeish will have identified our weakness in the air, we'll need to especially keep an eye on defenders Roger Johnson and Liam Ridgewell, both capable of causing trouble from set-pieces.

Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry are pretty certain to retain their places, with Stevie Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Martin Petrov and Craig Bellamy battling for the other two midfield slots. Bellamy is most likely to get the nod, though which of the other three joins him in the team isn't too clear. Ireland scored in the cup win midweek, but left the field looking like he'd tweaked his injury, Shaun Wright-Phillips' recent form has resulted in much debate between fans, but Petrov's return would possibly have to see Bellamy moved from his favoured left side.

Joe Hart will be missing for Birmingham, on loan from City he's not allowed to play against his parent club. Maik Taylor will replace him for his first league start of the season. £9m duo Scott Dann and Roger Johnson, signed from Coventry City and Cardiff in the summer will start in the middle, veteran right-back Stephen Carr, and Ridgwell, make up a back four we'll be hoping to get some change from.

Former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson, mediocre even by SPL standards last season, and now exiled from the Scottish national team, is likely to maintain his ever-present record in midfield alongside Lee Bowyer. Sebastian Larsson and James McFadden are also probable starters, with promising if goal-shy 'Chucho' Benitez partnering big lump Cameron Jerome in attack.

Main areas of concern might be the physical presence of Jerome and Benitez. Neither are likely to grab you fifteen or twenty goals a season but both certainly capable of putting themselves about and unsettling a defence. Toure and Lescott will have to match them and we have to make sure we don't concede any silly goals. As previously mentioned this will have to mean an improvement at defending set-pieces and crosses, and keeping an eye on their dangerous defenders. We must also keep an eye on James McFadden. His tendency to drift around the pitch and drop deep makes him difficult to mark and as we've seen for Everton and Scotland previously, he's always got a goal in him.

Without Stephen Ireland in midfield, particularly away from home, i always think we lack that cutting edge going forwards, someone to thread balls through and to be able to turn defence to attack. As has been the case in recent weeks we might have to heavily rely on Craig Bellamy and Martin Petrov to provide that edge as the partnership between strikers Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor struggles in its infancy.

Birmingham: Taylor, Carr, Ridgewell, Dann, Johnson, Ferguson, Larsson, Bowyer, Benitez, Jerome, McFadden

City: Given, Zabaleta, Bridge, Toure, Lescott, de Jong, Bellamy, Barry, Tevez, Adebayor, Petrov

Prediction: Birmingham 0 City 1

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