Often Partisan

At the beach

Peter Crouch’s own goal last night might have just sealed Manchester City’s Champions League place, but for us Blues fans it could be one of the keys to saving Birmingham City from relegation, as well as possibly enabling us to enter the Europa League at a later round than we previously thought.

As previously confirmed by the Birmingham Mail, should Manchester City finish in a Champions League qualifying position in the league, and also win the FA Cup then Stoke would enter the Europa League in the third qualifying round, bumping Birmingham City up a notch to the playoff round – and maybe enhancing Blues’ chances of making it to the money-spinning group stages. Tonight the first half of that came true, with Manchester City now guaranteed to finish in the top four; so on Saturday the blue half of Birmingham will be cheering on the blue half of Manchester in the hope that we get the boost.

Crouch’s own goal didn’t just ruin Spurs’ Champions League ambitions though. With Blues and Stoke both guaranteed Europa League places, it means that only 5th in the league will get a Europa League place – and Spurs, who face Liverpool on Sunday at the same time as Blues take on Fulham, lie 6th two points and 12 goals worse off than the Scousers. Liverpool are on a high, having won four in their last five games scoring seventeen goals in the process; Spurs on the other hand have only won one in their last nine league games. Should Spurs go to Anfield and fail to beat Liverpool, you’d have to guess that their season is pretty much over; and their last game becomes a bit of a dead rubber for them.

This has to be good news for Birmingham City. Whilst it’s in the Premier League regs to play your strongest team for every game, you can’t see Harry Redknapp risking some of his top players who might have niggles for the visit of Blues if they don’t need the points. Indeed, you can’t see the Spurs players overly risking injury when they may be pushing for a move to another club in the summer. In short, tonight’s goal may have put thoughts of the season ending into the Spurs’ player’s heads, and Tottenham might well be at the beach mentally when we come to play them on May 22nd.

I’m not saying that means we shouldn’t go all out to beat Fulham at home; I believe our game against the Cottagers (incidentally another team I believe who are going to be thinking about swimwear and villas in Portugal rather than trying too hard against us) has to be played positively to get the result so the Spurs game won’t matter for us either. What I am saying is that the last game might not be as hard as we think it is – and that I don’t believe Birmingham City will finish the season on 39 points. The pressure is on the teams below us this weekend to put the pressure on us when our game comes around; for Blues it’s simply a case of us focusing on the job in hand now – and with a bit of luck we’ll all be looking forwards to a nice European holiday in August.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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