West Ham must stop Zigic’s supply if they are to beat Birmingham

Hammers must stop Barry Ferguson getting the ball

The opposition

CARLING CUP finalists Birmingham City are slowly sliding toward the relegation zone and defeat against the Hammers could see them slip into real trouble.

They have won only once away from home this season and whether it be at St Andrews or on the road, goals have been difficult to come by for the Midlanders.

Birmingham are hopeful the loan signing of striker Obafemi Martins until the end of the season will bring goals and the Nigerian strikes up a fruitful partnership with target man Nikola Zigic.


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It will be the fourth time West Ham have faced Birmingham this season and despite taking the lead in all three of their previous meetings, the east Londoners have only one victory to show for their efforts.

Notoriously direct, the Hammers struggle to deal with long balls into the area or from out wide and in each game, the Blues have taken full advantage.

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Although they play with a compact midfield, full backs Stephen Carr and Liam Ridgewell offer much-needed width, which gives City a good balance.

Key to the game

BIRMINGHAM know West Ham struggle against direct sides and the key will be to prevent them playing long balls up to Zigic.

The West Ham forwards are going to have to work hard to help prevent this happening and stopping the supply to playmaker Barry Ferguson (above) is vital, while the Hammers’ full backs must prevent crosses going into the box.

Without Scott Dann, City have looked shaky at the back and with a new-look, improved strike force, the Hammers are sure to find some success.

Mark Noble and Scott Parker should win the battle in the middle of the park, but must track the runs of the dangerous Craig Gardner, who scored the winner when the sides met a fortnight ago.

Verdict

MAN for man, West Ham are a far better side and by now you would hope they would learn their lesson from previous meetings with Birmingham.

The Hammers should be too strong going forward and although dangerous in the air, Zigic is technically redundant so if they can nullify his aerial threat, he should have little impact on the match.

Prediction: West Ham 3 City 1.

You can get live updates from Sunday’s match plus a report on the whistle on our twitter site. www.twitter.com/ela_hammers

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