Saturday's big match preview

Birmingham City v West Ham Utd Saturday, December 12, 3pm St Andrew s GROGGY and wavering on the ropes having suffered a punishing onslaught from the reigning Premier League champions, West Ham would have sought solace from their opponent in the next roun

Birmingham City v West Ham Utd

Saturday, December 12, 3pm

St Andrew's

GROGGY and wavering on the ropes having suffered a punishing onslaught from the reigning Premier League champions, West Ham would have sought solace from their opponent in the next round - Birmingham City.


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However, instead of facing a diminishing Ricky Hatton, they're taking on a fearsome Amir Khan ready to land the knockout blow.

After a slow start to the campaign the Blues looked destined for a relegation dogfight, but a dramatic change in fortunes has seen them climb to ninth in the Premier League.

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Arsenal were the last team to defeat Alex McLeish's side. Since that game, on October 17, the Blues have drawn two - against Manchester City and Liverpool - and won four.

Only league leaders Chelsea have a better record from their last six games. It would be generous to say Birmingham have made St Andrew's their fortress with three wins, two draws and two defeats, but it's certainly a place starved of goals: Just five in favour and four against.

This does not bode well for the Hammers with leading marksman Carlton Cole out injured.

West Ham's away form makes for even more difficult reading. Just one victory on the road this season - a 2-0 win at Wolves on the opening day.

In their last two trips - Sunderland and Hull City - the Hammers let two-goal leads slip from their grasp.

It's not all doom and gloom. The East Enders have a fantastic record at St Andrew's. You have to go back to 1985 to find their last defeat in the West Midlands.

That win was part of a campaign which saw the Hammers finish third in the old First Division, the club's best-ever final league position.

Since then there have been six contests in all competitions, with the Hammers claiming a comprehensive five wins.

The last time the two teams met in Birmingham was in August 2007 when a Mark Noble penalty separated the sides. The Blues were relegated to the Championship that season.

McLeish steered Birmingham back to the top flight last term and they look a far more resolute side.

And with Ecuadorian livewire Christian Benitez offering explosive pace and clever movement up front the West Ham rearguard, which could be without the injured Matthew Upson, will have their hands full.

For the Hammers Italian striker Alessandro Diamanti will most likely fill in for the absent Cole. Zavon Hines will also be missing after hobbling off against United.

Robert Green should overcome his illness to guard the Hammers net.

POSSIBLE TEAM: Hart, Carr, Ridgewell, Johnson, Dann, Bowyer, Larsson, Ferguson, Jerome, Benitez, McFadden.

Prediction:

Birmingham 1 West Ham 0.

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