Birmingham City v Chelsea

A match that on paper looks like a nailed on three points… a valuable three points now that Manchester United have closed the gap to nine.

Birmingham City have been in free-fall for a number weeks now and look doomed to play Championship football next season.

Annihilated 7-0 by Liverpool at St. Andrew’s in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, they then suffered a hammering at Old Trafford in the Premiership: United scored three but could have and maybe should have scored as many as Liverpool, despite an improved performance by City in the second half.

Not that we should expect a similar goalfest. Jose Mourinho is on record as saying “Why go for 5-0 when 2-0 will do?“, or words to that effect.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Middlesbrough were trounced 7-0 by Arsenal and 4-0 by Aston Villa prior to our visit to the Riverside in February; and the outcome of that match will linger long in the memory. Birmingham need a similar result to move above Midlands rivals West Brom and out of the relegation places.

Jose Mourinho certainly isn’t underestimating Steve Bruce’s side: “They are three or four points away from staying in the division and if they can get one point or three points from the game against Chelsea then it will be a big boost for them. So I believe they will play with a great effort and I am not waiting for an easy game.”

Arjen Robben is available again after serving a four-match suspension for picking up two red cards this season, while William Gallas has one more match to serve of a three-match ban for his sending-off late in the 1-0 defeat to Fulham. Glen Johnson is the only player ruled out through injury after he travelled to Germany on Thursday for a routine hernia operation; he’s expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

All eyes will be on Didier Drogba after last weekend’s ‘Hand of Drog‘ goal against Manchester City. The big Ivorian was disgracefully booed by sections of the Stamford Bridge crowd after being named man of the match; it’ll be interesting to see what reaction he gets from the hardcore away support following the wholly over-the-top witch-hunt in this week’s media.

Birmingham are without a host of first team players. Matthew Upson, Muzzy Izzet, David Dunn, Chris Sutton, Jamie Clapham and Julian Gray are sidelined by injury, Mario Melchiot and Stan Lazaridis are doubtful, while Jiri Jarosik, who is on loan at St. Andrew’s till the end of the season, is not allowed to play under the terms of the deal.

Prediction: Birmingham have lost three matches on the bounce, conceded 12 goals in the process while also failing to score. A 1-0 home win over Sunderland is their only victory in eight Premiership outings. Bookmakers make them 11/1 to emerge victorious today.

Despite our indifferent form of late we should prove far too strong for Steve Bruce’s injury-hit side. 0-2.

Birmingham City 0 – 0 Chelsea · Update

Not a lot to say except that we were poor, way below our best as we have been for a number of weeks now. I’m not going to get into criticising individual players, but as a team things seem to have gone awry: there’s very little cohesion and a definite lack of composure in front of goal.

Jose Mourinho needs to do something about this pretty darn quick, or he’ll join Kevin Keegan and Arsene Wenger as managers who have blown the Premiership title after having what many considered an unassailable lead.

Read Jonathan‘s take on events and what they mean for the remainder of the season here.

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; Sunday Times; Independent on Sunday; Daily Telegraph; The Times; The Guardian; The Independent.

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