Birmingham v Blackpool
December 31, 2011
Boxing Day brought three goals and three points for the Seasiders but they face a much sterner test as they travel to St Andrews to take on Birmingham City.
Ian Holloway's side are just a point outside the playoff places after the win at Barnsley and have lost just once in nine games.
However, the Blues are strong at home and are yet to lose on their own patch this season. The fixture begins an important week for Blackpool, with Middlesbrough to come on January 2nd and Fleetwood Town away in the FA Cup just five days later.
There isn't - bar perhaps Barnsley v Leeds - a more attractive game in the division and it's one that the home team need to take maximum points out of if they are to stay in touch with the top six.
City boss Chris Hughton is adamant that Pool will be in the shake up at the end of the season:
Anyone who finishes above them will certainly be in the play-off positions and possibly higher.
'They have lost a couple of big influences, Adam and Vaughan. But if you look at the nucleus of the team it`s what they had last season.
'He works very well in the transfer market, Ian Holloway. They have a high turnover of players, but Ollie works it very well.
'The nucleus of their side is the one that for large parts did exceptionally well in the Premier League.'
And Holloway agrees somewhat, saying: 'I have got a great group of players and I am convinced they can keep on getting better.
'It has been a difficult year. We had to deal with a horrendous relegation, and losing something we all so desperately wanted to keep hold of, as well as losing some of our best players.
'But we have come back. We have finally shaken off that depression from what happened last season and we are looking a really good footballing side.
'Let`s see if we can build another team. The one we lost last year was the best for 40 years. Let`s try to better that.'
Birmingham City Team News:
Liam Ridgewell made the bench in their draw with West Ham United but could be in line for a start after fully shaking off injury.
Curtis Davies is back after suspension while Jean Beausejour will keep his place in midfield.
Player to watch: Marlon King
The striker may be controversial but he has scored goals wherever he has been. Birmingham is no different, with King scoring seven so far this season - including two in the Europe League.
Blackpool Team News:
Callum McManaman will play his final game for the Seasiders before heading back to Wigan at the end of his loan spell.
Mark Howard will be between the sticks once again after a solid display on Boxing Day.
Elliot Grandin his fully fit but will play from the bench once again with Gary Taylor-Fletcher keeping his place.
Player to watch: Kevin Phillips
Phillips hasn't scored since the beginning of November and will have to be content with a place on the bench again.
However, against his old side, KP could be a handful as a substitute and don't bet against him scoring.
Match Facts & Stats
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Monday January 2nd, 2012