Friday, 8 February 2008

Bouncing Back

Barclays Premier League
West Ham United v Birmingham City
Boleyn Ground
Saturday 9 February
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Weather: The forecast is for a sunny afternoon with the temperature is set to peak at around 11C.

Tenth-placed West Ham United will look to bounce back from the 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic last Saturday with a fourth home league win in a row. The club have dispatched Manchester United (2-1), Fulham (2-1) and Liverpool (1-0) and have lost just one of the last seven at the Boleyn Ground since mid December. The Irons are also seeking a fourth successive Premier League victory over Birmingham City, and a second double over them in as many seasons. Victory could potentially move the club up to eighth place- depending on Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth, who begin the weekend three and two points ahead respectively.

This is the first of a trio of Premier League fixtures against London clubs for Birmingham City, and their record against teams from the capital in this league is nothing to write home about. They have won one, drawn three and lost nine of the last 13. The Blues travel to East London in their lowest position since the last week of August. Just two victories in the Premier League under Alex McLeish has seen them slip into the relegation zone. They have not won in seven in all competitions, and only won one of the last 11 - a sequence that included defeat to League One Huddersfield in the FA Cup. City have lost nine away league games and are without a victory in their last five away trips; drawing one and losing four since their 2-3 victory against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on McLeish's debut as manager on 2 December. Pride Park is the only other away ground from which they have emerged victorious this season.

Alan Curbishley expects a tough afternoon is in store for his team. "The expectations are full on for us because of where we are and where Birmingham are, but we know it is just as difficult," he insisted. "If you look at Derby's equaliser at Birmingham in the last minute, it just shows you there's no gimmes in the Premier League. We've drawn at home against Wigan and Reading and had a tough game against Sunderland. A lot of games are so tight and you have to perform every week. If you're not right you can get lucky - though invariably that doesn't work out too many times - but if you're playing as well you can then you have a chance."

The Hammers themselves will be going into the game desperately looking to put things right following the 1-0 defeat at Wigan on Saturday. Curbishley saw that match as a massive chance to close the gap on the teams directly above them in the table and continue the club's push for a top-six spot, and said: "We were so disappointed because of the performance, the clubs around us not doing so well and the (large) support we had. Also, the nature of the defeat and how it occurred, when I picked a side to deal with set plays and they've not done it." He added: "We do need to bounce back because we know what is at stake at the weekend. The two teams above us are playing away from home and if we get the result it will be a big lift for us. If we can do things right we should be looking to catch one or two of them teams - but we've got to win the majority of our 14 games to stand any chance."

Alex McLeish believes his side have nothing to fear going into the Premier League clash. "West Ham are a good side," he concedes. "They have spent a lot of money and enhanced their quality by investing which has helped them to be much more competitive and technical Premier League team this season. We are a point behind Reading and two points behind Wigan and Sunderland and there will be lots of twists and turns before the end of the season. It's about maintaining the focus and the belief and trying not to be distracted by the other stuff you read in the papers. I just see this as a great challenge and I am privilieged to be involved in it."

Alan Curbishley will assess Julien Faubert after he played the full 90 minutes on Monday in a friendly match against QPR. The French winger had missed the previous two games with a slight calf strain and the manager could wait to give him a reserve-team run-out on Tuesday. Nolberto Solano, a substitute at Wigan, also got another 45 minutes under his belt following hamstring trouble. Bobby Zamora (knee) and Craig Bellamy (stomach) both got an hour or so on Monday. Despite rumours to the contrary, Scott Parker (knee) is due back in three weeks while Kieron Dyer continues to make good progress from his double leg-break. Henri Camara is back from the African Cup of Nations - although John Paintsil is still on international duty with Ghana. James Collins' cruciate ligament damage will keep him out for at least six months, with Nigel Quashie (foot) and Calum Davenport (neck) also sidelined.

For the visitors, Olivier Kapo will miss the trip to West Ham through suspension after picking up his fifth booking of the campaign against Sunderland 11 days ago. The absence of the former Juventus player could give hope of a recall for Gary McSheffrey who has been axed from the starting line-up for the last three games. Alex McLeish has also to decide whether to make changes upfront with Mikael Forssell and Cameron Jerome in contention for a recall. McLeish will be boosted by the return of midfielder Mehdi Nafti and defender Rahi Jaidi from African Nations Cup duty with Tunisia, but Franck Queudrue is still side-lined with a hamstring injury.

The teams' last met on 18 August at the St Andrews, the first away fixture of the season. After a close-fought encounter, Mark Noble struck the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 70th minute after Colin Doyle had upended Bellamy.

Head to head (last six meetings, all league)

18 August 2007 - Birmingham City 0-1 West Ham United
13 February 2006 - West Ham United 3-0 Birmingham City
5 December 2005 - Birmingham City 1-2 West Ham United
11 May 2003 - Birmingham City 2-2 West Ham United
5 October 2002 - West Ham United 1-2 Birmingham City
30 November 1999 - Birmingham City 2-3 West Ham United

No comments:


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari