Ben Foster looks to have recovered from the thumb injury that kept him out of the England friendly in midweek and there are no new injury worries. Obafemi Martins’ visa has come through so I expect him to have a place on the bench.
Stoke also have a full sqaud to pick from and could well be unchanged from their victory against Sunderland last week.
Our last meeting was in early November where Blues allowed Stoke a two goal lead (Again!) before making a comeback with goals by Keith Fahey and Cameron Jerome. Unfortunately they then fell to a late sucker punch and lost 3-2.
The last meeting at St Andrews was very early last season and was so dull that I can’t remember anything about it other than it finishing goalless.
Blues are in reasonable form in the league despite having had some difficult fixtures. They have won two and drawn two of the last six.
Stoke have won three and lost three of the last six in the league but away from home they have suffered three straight defeats. They currently sit in 9th, six points ahead of Blues.
After last week’s great result we now start a run of three home games that will hopefully allow us to pull clear of the relegation scrap we have found ourselves in. The cup results have been great but while we are sitting just above the bottom three I can’t quite relax and enjoy them as I would like. The first of these games brings our near neighbours from the just north of Brum, Stoke City.
It does them a slight disservice to say this but if you can defend set pieces well then you have a good chance of beating Stoke. It will be important not to give away silly free kicks around the box or avoidable corners and even throw ins. One advantage we have is to be able to put Nikola Zigic in the front of the box to head away the longs throws before they get in to the danger zone. We also need to watch out for Matthew Etherington on the left although I trust Stephen Carr to do a good job there. I’d to suggest as I did last week that Larsson be brought in on the right and Bentley moved to the left to provide extra defensive cover.
At the other end of the pitch I expect Stoke’s big and physical centre backs to be able handle Zigic better than West Ham did so we need to be more creative in the final third. Jerome will be key in this and so will be Martins coming on later in the game. I don’t expect there to be a lot of goals in this one as both sides are solid defensively and Stoke’s record of one goal a game away matches Blues’ record at home. In fact another 0-0 might not be a great surprise but I think we can just sneak it if we watch out for those set pieces.
My prediction Blues 1 Stoke 0.