Portsmouth v Birmingham, FA Cup quarter-final, March 6, 2010
“People say we look a decent cup side with being good defensively and nicking goals. That is the theory. We should be going into the game relaxed – but we will be up against dangerous opposition. Portsmouth are backed into a corner, they had a great result at the weekend, and have some great players. They are on their own patch and, as anyone knows in this league, including the top teams like Manchester United and Chelsea, it is not easy to go away and win.â€ â€“ Alex McLeish.
Considering the differing fortunes which Portsmouth and Birmingham have suffered and enjoyed respectively this season, it may come as some surprise that the home team could be considered a good bet to progress to the semi-finals. (Portsmouth are 24/1 to win the FA Cup, Birmingham are 13/1.) McLeish is spot on about Fratton Park being a tough place to go and there is a new found sense surrounding Portsmouth that since they have gone into administration there may well be a lot more fight in Avram Grantâ€™s side.
The fact that the FA Cup winners of 2008 have entered administration less than two years after their famous Wembley success has been lost on no one. The Pompey supporters will be well up for this one and the players should also be looking to impress in a high profile game.
Portsmouth successfully negotiated their first match in administration last week with a deserved 2-1 win at fellow strugglers Burnley. And bar their 5-0 defeat to Manchester United last month they have put in another string of performances that belie their rock bottom status in the Premier League.
In particular they have saved their best results for the FA Cup. Most notably in the last round when they routed great rivals Southampton 4-1 away thanks to a virtuoso substitute performance from Quincy Owusu-Abeyie. Previous wins in the FA Cup over Sunderland and away at Coventry suggests Avram Grant may well have the midas touch for this competition. (7/5 to be over 2.5 goals.)
Kevin-Prince Boateng will miss out due to injury as will Ricardo Rocha due to suspension but Tal Ben Haim and Aaron Mokoena are expected to be available. The notoriously tight Birmingham defence will have to keep an eye on the likes of Nadir Belhadj, Hassan Yebda and Jamie Oâ€™Hara who can all be dangerous from deep. (Portsmouth are 85/40 to keep a clean sheet.)
Alex McLeishâ€™s side have undoubtedly been the surprise team in the Premier League this season and after reaching the magical 40 point mark with the 1-0 win over Wigan last week can fully concentrate on progress in the oldest cup competition in the world.
The victory over the Latics did though signal the end of a worrying run in the league which had seen Brum lose their last two games against West Ham and Fulham. Birmingham will also come into this game full of beans having negotiated all their FA Cup matches having been drawn away in every round.
Birminghamâ€™s win at Everton in round four was particularly impressive and decent results at Nottingham Forest and Derby should also not be sniffed at as they were undoubtedly tricky matches.
The main injury doubt for Birmingham is James McFadden who pulled out of Scotlandâ€™s friendly with the Czech Republic in midweek. The rest of the side will almost pick itself and we can expect plenty of passion from the midfield pairing of Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson.
In one of those quirky fixture list happenings, these two teams meet next Tuesday. The previous game this season saw Birmingham edge out Pompey 1-0 with a 90th minute penalty at St Andrews in August. David James gave away the penalty that day and another sub plot will be his individual battle with fellow England number one hopeful Joe Hart.
Both sides should give this a real go, Birmingham can concentrate on the FA Cup now and Pompey could be dangerous opposition. Expect the unexpected. (37/1 for Halftime/Full time to be Birmingham/Portsmouth.)
101gg predicts: Portsmouth 3 â€“ Birmingham 2 (39/1)
Full match odds here.