Often Partisan

The Left Side

It’s an important match for Birmingham City tomorrow in the race to beat the drop from the Premiership, against one of their rivals in the relegation fight Blackburn Rovers. Ewood Park has been a tough place for Blues to get points, with Blues not winning there since 1968, suffering five defeats in their last eight trips there. Defeat to Blackburn wouldn’t be the end of the world, but this is a game where Blues should be aiming to win to stay out of the drop zone and maybe force Blackburn into it.

Injury-wise, McLeish has told the press that Blues will definitely be without the services of on-loan winger David Bentley and Czech central defender Martin Jiranek tomorrow; Nikola Zigic is rated at 50/50 as he is suffering from a sore hip and Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins is also a doubt. However, the enigmatic Belarusian Aliaksandr Hleb is back in contention, and David Murphy and Stephen Carr have both shaken off knocks and are fit to play.

Blackburn will be without midfielders Vince Grella and Keith Andrews due to injury, and Steven N’Zonzi to suspension; Gael Givet is likely to slot into the left back role allowing Martin Olsson to push up into the left wing slot. It looks like Blackburn will keep with the Joneses as Jermaine and Phil Jones (no relation) are likely to keep their places in central midfield.

Looking at previous matches Blackburn have played, I’d say the key players for Blues are Stephen Carr and Seb Larsson. Look at these chalkboards with the passes Blackburn have made at home in their last two games and you’ll understand why.

Passes made by Blackburn against Blackpool

As you can see, passes are heavily concentrated down the left touchline, especially when attacking the Blackpool goal. It would seem their only creative outlet is down the left wing, and so if this could be shut down we could nullify them completely.

Passes made by Blackburn against Newcastle

Against Newcastle, this was even more pronounced; in comparison the right side of the pitch was hardly used by Blackburn.

I think if a team has been successful the week before, and there are no new injury worries then it’s probably best to keep it as it is – thus I would line up with the team that started against Bolton. I’d tell Parnaby (who did well playing out of position) to try and push up the left flank, along with Bowyer and exploit Blackburn’s weaker side. Larsson and Carr will need to be at their best against two good players in Olsson and Givet; however I think this is another game in which Ferguson and Gardner can boss the midfield and push up another five to ten yards to give us more oomph up front.

My prediction – I’d love us to win but Blackburn have this hoodoo over us and I am slightly superstitious. Notwithstanding their poor position, I think they have some good players in Roque Santa Cruz and Nikola Kalinic and I think we will have to be at our best to keep them out; Phillips will need to show he can keep scoring and Jerome will need to work hard again. I’m plumping for a 1-1 draw.

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