Wolves v Birmingham preview
Hosts enter an important phase of their season
By Soriebah Kajue. Last Updated: 12/12/10 1:21pm
McCarthy: Crucial game
Mick McCarthy will be happy that he can throw the form book out of the window ahead of the derby with Birmingham.
Wolves are in their second season in the Premier League but things are not proving any easier for the team from the Black Country.
McCarthy's team are currently second from bottom but will draw strength from the fact that they are just three points from safety.
A run of just two wins from the last 10 league games makes grim reading for their fans, who will look to their win against Sunderland in their last home game for inspiration.
All three of Wolves' wins have come at home this season and they know it is imperative their home form is good as they go in search of survival again.
This is the first of two derbies for them in consecutive weekends as they face West Brom next Sunday, and then Wigan the week after.
McCarthy will be hoping that his team can nick some valuable points over the coming weeks to keep them within striking distance of safety going into the New Year.
However, he has now lost six derby games against Birmingham and will be looking for a change in fortunes.
But Birmingham under Alex McLeish are one of the division's most uncompromising outfits.
The Blues have been defeated just twice in their last 10 league games and will relish claiming the bragging rights.
Their defensive partnership of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann has garnered much publicity this term for their sterling work.
At home they have yielded just six goals but it is on the road that Birmingham have struggled.
They have not won an away game in nine months and it would give them great pleasure to end that miserable run against their rivals.
Birmingham's lack of goals will worry McLeish but that could all change with the improving form of Nikola Zigic.
Birmingham have won the last three derbies against Wolves and will be keen to extend that record.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake could be in line for a recall to the team as McCarthy goes for a more offensive line up against their neighbours.
Michael Mancienne definitely misses the game though after injuring his knee in the game against Blackburn last week. This could see a defensive reshuffle that could lead to Richard Stearman coming back into the team.
Steven Fletcher should have recovered from a bout of illness to claim a place in the squad, and David Edwards looks on course to have recovered from a thigh strain.
Zigic's improvement in recent weeks has seen McLeish hinting that he may start his giant Serbian striker in this local encounter.
That could mean that he tinkers with the 4-5-1 formation that saw him include Craig Gardner in midfield alongside Lee Bowyer.
McLeish has no fresh injury worries with long-term absentees James McFadden and Alexander Hleb both out until the New Year.
Possible starting XIs:
Wolves: Hennessey, Ward, Elokobi, Berra, Stearman, Jarvis, Milijas, Ebanks-Blake, Foley, Hunt, Doyle.
Birmingham: Foster, Ridgewell, Dann, Johnson, Carr, Fahey, Bowyer, Ferguson, Larsson, Zigic, Jerome.
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