Spurs v Birmingham: Blues are limping towards disaster
Tottenham and Birmingham go head to head with both teams having everything to play for at White Hart Lane.
When Birmingham City won the Carling Cup and lifted their first trophy for 48 years, there was just one mission to complete – securing their survival in the Premier League.
At the time the Blues were just two points above the drop zone, but the expectation was that, with just one competition to focus on, the side who had beaten Arsenal at Wembley would pull clear.
Unfortunately, very little has changed in the last three months – except that the injuries have continued to stack up.
If City were safe, Alex McLeish probably would have laughed as he lost another four players in the disastrous 2-0 defeat against Fulham at the weekend.
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Lee Bowyer, Stuart Parnaby and Martin Jiranek all limped off inside 16 minutes at Craven Cottage – and substitute Alexander Hleb, who had replaced Bowyer, was also stretchered off, leaving the Blues with 10 men.
That means that City have 12 players in the treatment room ahead of this weekend’s pivotal trip to White Hart Lane – and loanee David Bentley is ineligible to play against his parent club.
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James McFadden has been out of action since September, and he has since been joined on the sidelines by goalkeeper Maik Taylor, Enric Vallas, Scott Dann, David Murphy, Cameron Jerome and the men who scored the goals at Wembley, the giant Nikola Zigic and Obafemi Martins.
Arsenal’s capitulation since their defeat in the Carling Cup final has been well documented, but Arsene Wenger is not the only manager counting the cost of that day at Wembley.
Having won just two games out of 11 since that day, McLeish feels that City may pay a far greater price for their triumph.
“Maybe mentally since the Carling Cup final, it took its toll for a while,” said the manager.
“Then we picked ourselves up for while. But against Fulham we seemed short in terms of legs and presence as well.
“I think the suspensions and injuries have caught up with us a wee bit. But once we lick our wounds, we will be bang at it.
“We’ve got to believe and I’ve been in situations before where it’s looked impossible and it’s worked and happened for us.”
City will start the final day above the relegation zone, but only due to a goal difference which is two better than Wigan’s, and one better than Blackpool’s. Meanwhile, the two teams above them, Wolves and Blackburn, go head to head at Molineux.
With five teams vying to avoid two spots in the drop zone, and all lying within a single point, it promises to be an agonising day for Birmingham fans.
The fact that Tottenham are also going into the final day with something tangible to play for is certainly unhelpful, but that works both ways.
Harry Redknapp said: “We want to get a result but we’re going to have a big say in the relegation battle as well, because there’s three teams on 39 points – Blackpool, Wigan and Birmingham – and we’ve got Birmingham, which will be a very tough game.”
The verdict: Regardless of the quality of the football, this promises to be a thrilling finale, with both sides needing to win, while keeping an eye on the score-lines elsewhere.
Tottenham will be anxious to avoid the slip-ups against inferior sides which have dogged their season, especially at home.
Now they have one final chance to assert their dominance in front of their own fans, or face the prospect of an early return to action in the very first stages of the Europa League via the Fair Play league – and indeed risk missing out on Europe altogether.
It all comes down to this and, after months of experience in this kind of fixture, we will go for a draw.
Whether that will be enough for Spurs depends on Liverpool’s result at Aston Villa. And whether it will be enough for Birmingham depends on three other games. It’s looking like an interesting day.
Prediction: Spurs 1 Birmingham 1