Rob's Preview: Birmingham V Wigan Athletic
Birmingham under Alex McLeish have done well in their last two seasons. Birmingham had been doing well until a shocking defeat by West Bromwich Albion which was their first defeat of the season, but Brom are showing signs of improving under Roberto Di Matteo.
Nevertheless, Birmingham put this result behind them to beat MK Dons 3-1 at Saint Andrews. Three goals in the space of four minutes effectively killed the tie, with MK Dons grabbing a consolation.
Wigan welcomed Preston to the DW Stadium and it looked like Wigan hadn't learned those all important lessons when they conceded mid-way through the first half from a Keith Tracey free kick. Wigan struggled against Preston thereafter and despite a positive response as the game went on, found goals hard to come by. That was until Jordi Gomez scored and despite having hit the post twice, Preston could not force the winner to kill the tie and in injury time, Charles N'Zogbia scored the winning goal to send the DW Stadium crowd back in satisfactory mood, though the evidence would suggest there's still a long way to go yet...
Playing mid-week is not always a good thing, just ask Tottenham Hotspur and Birmingham might be a bit jaded as may Wigan so it may be the case that both teams might not be playing at a full tempo. Birmingham are a good side under Alex McLeish and I think that they are resilient at home and do not concede much, which says a lot about the club and everyone associated with it as a whole.
Whilst Birmingham's start to the league has been impressive, Wigan continue to deceive their critics - its very much a case of good Wigan, bad Wigan, week in, week out, much to the frustrations of many. The squad still need time to settle and Mauro Boselli has yet to find the net for the Latics.
I see the game at Saint Andrews as being a bit of a nothing game, really. I think that the efforts of Birmingham and Wigan mid-week might make them feel jaded. As Birmingham might have had an extra day to recover, this doesn't mean a great deal. This season, Wigan have a 100% away record and Birmingham will be wary after Wigan pulled off a splendid surprise at White Hart Lane.
Furthermore, I suspect a 4-5-1 offing might be in store for the team. I heard that Hendry Thomas may not make the game but we have some decent options to ensure that we are not too badly affected by this - Hendry Thomas blows hot and cold. When he's good, he's good, when he isn't, he's not so good. Still, I hope he makes an ample recovery as he's a useful utility to have in the team.
Alex McLeish has come out on top twice over Roberto Martinez and Roberto will want to put that record right. I think that this is going to be something of a nothing game, quite honestly, with both teams perhaps feeling the jadedness of mid-week fixtures. I'm not expecting a classic, but Birmingham's home form is very, very good but nevertheless, Wigan will be equally as buoyed over their win against Preston. Wigan struggle to score but I think they could keep Birmingham at bay and nick a valuable point.
Birmingham City 0 Wigan Athletic 0
Man City 0 Chelsea 1 - Man City do not generally of late fare well in crucial games - they beat Chelsea last year, but Ancelotti has learned a lot as well. I think City will be a bit flat after their shock loss to West Brom.
Arsenal 2 West Brom 0 - Arsenal will win this game yet they will provide a relatively stern test for the Gunners. Still, the Gunners should win the game and surge up the table.
Blackpool 1 Blackburn 1 - Blackpool need to win to keep their survival hopes alive - Blackburn will look for a response after being knocked out of the cup. A draw is on the cards at Bloomfield Road.
Fulham 0 Everton 0 - Even without some firepower, Fulham are a tough outfit at home. I suspect a draw will occur.
Liverpool 1 Sunderland 0 - I think that Liverpool will triumph but not emphatically against a well organised Sunderland side.
West Ham 1 Tottenham 1 - West Ham beat Sunderland but they will struggle to overcome Tottenham but I think they have enough to get a draw.
Bolton 0 Man Utd 2 - Man Utd won't concede many goals this season and Bolton are not in their class. A defeat at Turf Moor was not what Owen Coyle wanted. To enliven your team against Manchester United is a big ask. A comfortable win for the Red Devils today.
Wolves 0 Aston Villa 1 - I think that despite being a derby game, Aston Villa will shade this game. Wolves are a good side, but Villa have a slightly extra spark about them.
Newcastle 1 Stoke City 2 I just think that Stoke have got a bit more than Newcastle, attacking wise. Despite their euphoric win at the bridge, this is a bridge too far for Newcastle.
ROB'S FINAL THOUGHT
Whilst things are looking rosier for Wigan after their midweek triumph over Preston, I believe they will be OK ultimately, so the path to success might be coming our way fairly soon. If only we could sort out our inconsistency.