The Opposition - Birmingham City

Last updated : 20 April 2010 By Kevin Ball

The Gameplan
Since Bolton at home, our last home defeat, we have played 4-4-2, ditching the previous 4-5-1 formation. We have some flexibility with McFadden being able to play up front and wide, and Fahey being able to play in the middle and wide.

We work from the back. Our defence have been a real success this season, (last result an exception). If you are solid at the back, you can build going forward from there. We don't have any real pace in the middle, however Bowyer and Ferguson have dominated the midfield the majority of our home games. They both are strong and have the ability to make things happen. With Jerome and Benitez up front - we have loads of pace. They have given most defences problems this season. (However see weaknesses for an addition!)

Our main weakness has the fact that our forwards haven't converted enough chances. Both Jerome and Benitez regularly get into good positions, however end up messing up the chance. For that reason Benitez hasn't played much in recent weeks.

The other weakness is a lack of pace in midfield. An essential addition in the summer is a pacey wide man.

I'm a little out of touch, but other than the long term injuries, (O'Connor and Vignal), I think most are available.

Player by Player
I have to say that this would be my starting XI.

GK. Hart - He has been fantastic this season. The fact that he is being talked about as possibly being the 1st choice England keeper says it all.

RB. Carr - Convinced to come out of retirement, Stephen has not only done a great job at the back, but at times has also provided us with options going forward. The play which led to the winner against Wolves is one example. One weakness however, is he can be a bit too physical and we have got away with a few situations where penalties could have been given against us.

CB's. Dann and Johnson - McLeish bought these two for peanuts really, and the fear was if they could hack it at the top. Well they have proved they can. Johnson especially, who has been linked with England - although I would like to see him have another season in the Prem before he is given a cap.

LB. Ridgewell - Ridge has been a revelation this season. Last year we conceded silly goals because of his mistakes, but he has been converted from a CB to a LB and has done a great job. There are occasions where see the odd blip, but on the whole has been great.Like Carr, Ridge has also provided us with options going forward and has also scored important goals such as the late equaliser against Spurs.

As I have said, the defence have been fantastic and the number of games where we either haven't conceded or only conceded 1 is testament to the back "five."

I'm pretty sure that the defence will be as I have listed. The midfield will depend on who McLeish picks up front. I would play the following:

In the middle Bowyer and Ferguson - I have bigged them up already!

Wide I would play Fahey and McFadden. Fahey is still finding his feet but has showed a lot of promise. He just needs to work on his final ball. McFadden is very frustrating. His best position is in the "hole" but we don't play that formation, so his next best position is probably on the left - however HE doesn't like that! So he tends to get put up front. (More of that in a while). This means that Larsson will play on the right and Fahey on the left.

Up front I would have Jerome and Benitez. Their pace does create chances - I JUST WISH THEY'D SCORE MORE! However is it is more likely that McLeish will play Jerome and McFadden up front. For me they don't work as well. McFadden tends to be a bit selfish, and he isn't able to get to support Jerome after Jerome has made a run.

Having said all of that, I do think that we probably have enough to gather 3 points on Saturday. I am sorry to say that I predicted Hull as one of the 3 to go down, and I haven't seen anything to change my mind.

Go on, you watch - you'll rub my nose in it on Saturday now! I guess you would like a score prediction, I'll go for a 2-0 win for the Blues.

Kevin Ball is editor of Joys & Sorrows. See their website for the Hull City preview of this game.

Click here to read Kevin's predictions at the start of the season, when he did indeed tip Hull City for the bottom three.