Preview: Manchester City v Birmingham City

Following the explosive victory over Burnley, City take on a contrasting Birmingham side. Renowned for their defensive organisation, Alex McCleish’s side will be a tougher nut to crack, even without Joe Hart.

At least Roberto Mancini’s team will be full of confidence following last week’s six goal mauling. Fans buoyed by our goalscoring form should offer further encouragement in a game where an early goal could make all the difference.

Scoring first would bring Birmingham out and allow us to utilise the pace of Bellamy and Johnson. Birmingham’s discipline masks a lack of pace in the defence and midfield. If we fail to get the first goal, or get bogged down in a scoreless affair, then frustration could set in.

Following Wigan and Burnley, this is the last of a trio of games classed as “must wins”. It’s an uncomfortable situation being expected to win games and not one that sits easily with those of used to watching City. At least we have signed players who are used to this level of expectation, and hopefully the likes of Tevez will see us through once again.

Wayne Bridge, Micah Richards and Stephen Ireland continue to be injury doubts, while Nigel de Jong is likely to remain on the bench and avoid the booking that would see him missing the United and Arsenal games.

This all points to the same starting eleven we saw at Turf Moor. There can be few complaints about that, even if the opposisition are unlikely to be so obliging.

Given the fitness doubts over Wayne Bridge, it was a surprise to see Sylvinho join Michael Johnson on a trip to Abu Dhabi this week – particularly as he was nursing a calf strain. Maybe Bridge is likely to play afterall, or Mancini is thinking of Garrido for this game.

We’re not likely to have it all our own way in midfield, so once again Tevez will be required to drop deep and pick up the ball.  With Barry and Vieira unlikely to venture forward, it’s vital that one of our srikers drops back to augment the midfield and pressure Ferguson.

Roberto Mancini:

“Of course, scoring goals is the main thing, but one striker must work for the other team-mates, play short with the midfield. Carlos has a good technique, he’ll come back to get the ball and it is very difficult to mark him well.”

The balance of 4-4-2 with Tevez playing behind Adebayor worked perfectly last week and looks the best system for the players available. The only concern is Adebayor’s tendency to spend to much time out wide or get caught offside. This is a weakness of his game, and a well organised Birmingham defence could try and exploit it.

Alex McCleish’s side are rightly praised for their organisation, but are hardly free-scoring. Concenration will be important in defence and having intelligent players in the form of Onuoha and Sylvinho could be a blessing. For Birmingham, the absence of Joe Hart could be unsettling, as there are rarely any changes in McCleish’s team selection.

Victory would consolidate our position in fourth place and put the pressure on Tottenham who don’t play in the League until Wednesday. Nedum Onuoha has been the latest to talk of improving our goal difference as confidence appears to coming into the team at just the right time.

Blue Days line-up: Given, Onuoha, Sylvinho, Toure, Kompany, Barry, Vieira, A Johnson, Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor.

Prediction: 3-0 to Manchester City.

Verdict: Burnley 1 Manchester City 6
Player ratings: Manchester City v Birmingham City

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