Often Partisan

Toon

After two one nil wins on the bounce, the question has to be asked if McLeish should change anything for the visit of Newcastle United to St Andrews tonight. With Aliaksandr Hleb the only player joining long term absentees Scott Dann and James McFadden on the injury list, Eck has the luxury of being able to call on most of his squad as Birmingham City aim to push up the table further with another three points.

With there being three games in a week, the only concern I guess Alex might have is fitness; how many of the squad need a rest, especially bearing in mind the Carling Cup final is just twelve days away. Admittedly, McLeish may choose not to play his strongest eleven against Sheffield Wednesday in the cup, but after a very physical and scrappy game on Saturday I’m wondering if he might make changes.

For me the big question is in midfield. Gardner wasn’t quite up to his mercurial best on Saturday, and I think he struggled to impose his game on midfield with Larsson and Bentley both playing as proper wide men; it wasn’t until they both started to tuck in when play was on the opposite side that Gardner grew in stature in the game. It’s not like Blues don’t have options; Lee Bowyer must be chomping at the bit to play again; Jordon Mutch certainly hasn’t looked out of place in the middle and Keith Fahey can do a job there. Newcastle’s strength is in their midfield; players like Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton are both very good and Blues will need to ensure that neither are allowed to dictate the tempo of the game. For this reason, I think Bowyer may get a start as I think he’s very good at sitting on a player and ensuring that they don’t get much of the ball.

Whilst Obafemi Martins did show signs of class at the weekend, he did also look a bit rusty and I certainly think Blues missed the hard work of Cameron Jerome running the channels. That being said, I think it’s often a good thing to have a player play against his former team; it’s not logical, but I have this hunch that if Martins plays tonight then he will score against his former employers. Jerome showed at the weekend that against tired legs his pace and power can have a significant contribution, and I think a start on the bench wouldn’t be a bad thing. I thought Nikola Zigic was pretty poor on Saturday, but I don’t think you can leave out a player who has scored in three successive games; he’s obviously on a good run and we should stick with him to see if he can continue it.

I don’t see any reason to change our defence at all; Martin Jiranek has slotted into the centre back position nicely along side Roger Johnson. Stephen Carr and Liam Ridgewell pretty much are guaranteed names on the team sheet alongside Ben Foster, so the defence really does pick itself.

I cannot see us winning a third game on the bounce – as much as I would like us to, I think it’s going to be a very tough game and I’ll be happy with a point tonight and maybe a clean sheet. This is one of our games in hand and as such to convert it into one point at least will be good news for our league placing.

My prediction: Blues 0 v Newcastle United 0

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