Birmingham v Tottenham, Premier League, January 30, 2010
The old adage that you are only as good as your last game will be under review in this match after Birminghamâ€™s fine run of form came to an end at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday whilst Spurs picked up three points for the first time in 2010 with a 2-0 victory over Fulham on Tuesday.
Despite their defeat at Stamford Bridge, Birmingham have a great opportunity to close the gap on one of the teams chasing a Champions League spot directly above them in the league. Alex McLeishâ€™s side have been one of the revelations of the season and besides the Chelsea result look like a team that can compete with the very best. (Birmingham are 37/1 to finish in the top four, Spurs are 7/2.)
Nowhere was this more evident than Birminghamâ€™s surprise win at Everton in the FA Cup last week. Brum have been very solid at home and both Chelsea and Manchester United were relieved to come away with draws recently. Their defence has conceded just six goals at home which is the best record in the division along with Fulham. (Birmingham are 3/1 to keep a clean sheet, 30/100 against.)
Throughout the Birmingham side, which has largely been unchanged in recent weeks, there have been impressive performers and partnerships that have been key to their success. Roger Johnson and Scott Dann have relished the step up from the Championship and provide a solid platform behind Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson who have rolled back the years with some energetic displays.
Cameron Jerome and Christian Benitez have been dangerous up front and with support from James McFadden and Sebastian Larsson, Spurs should expect a tough encounter that will go some way to proving their top four credentials. (Birmingham are 10/1 to win both halves.)
This is a crucial weekend for Harry Redknappâ€™s side as their rivals for a top four spot, Manchester City and Liverpool, face winnable games against Portsmouth and Bolton at home. Whilst their win over Fulham kept their hold on fourth position, the Cottagers have been woeful away from home and Spurs have not looked the same side since Aaron Lennon limped off late on in the win over West Ham at the end of last month.
After starting the season in such great form, Jermain Defoe has not scored for four games in all competitions and his penalty miss against Leeds was indicative of a striker not quite in the zone. As a result Robbie Keane could partner Peter Crouch up front whilst David Bentley will be hoping to start again on the right after his deflected free kick crashed into the Fulham net in midweek. (Spurs are 7/1 to win both halves.)
Bentley, like much of the Spurs squad, has been linked with a move to West Ham in recent days and these two clubs are believed to be negotiating over the Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Birmingham were unlucky to lose at White Hart Lane in August, courtesy of a last minute goal from Aaron Lennon. This is also a fixture Spurs traditionally struggle in, having won just once in five matches in the Premier League at St Andrews and their last visit resulted in a 4-1 defeat in March 2008.
This is likely to be a low scoring match with Birmingham tight at the back and Spurs also solid in defence having kept seven clean sheets in their last nine matches. Birmingham will be eager to get back to winning ways and home advantage could make the difference.
101gg predicts: Birmingham 1 â€“ Tottenham 0 (10/1)
Full match odds here.