Kelvin Tatum tips Eastbourne and Poole to prevail
Mikkel Michelsen can inspire Eastbourne to upset high-flying Birmingham on Monday, says Kelvin Tatum.
Last Updated: 29/07/13 6:53pm
Here Sky Sports expert Kelvin Tatum previews the contests and suggests Eastbourne could upset the high-flying Brummies while Poole should have too much for their Midlands opponents...
Eastbourne v Birmingham - 7.30pm, Monday, Sky Sports 1 HD
Birmingham have been in fine form and are quite possibly the best team in the country right now. They are a solid outfit and they're a tough task for any team home or away.
They unseated Swindon at the top of the Elite League with a 49-40 win at Coventry on Friday night and will be aiming to consolidate their place at the summit when they travel to Arlington Stadium this week.
The Brummies have a solid team and, although they have no real stand out rider, their top five is very steady and that has been key to their success this season.
When one or two of them have a night off someone else stands up and that has made them very consistent. They also have strength down at six and seven and, so far this season, that has worked out very well for them.
Eastbourne, meanwhile, are a team who haven't enjoyed the best of campaigns but the Eagles are still quite a challenge at home on their tight, technical track.
Monday's hosts also have plenty of belief after they surprisingly took an away point from Birmingham last week; I don't think many people predicted that but Eastbourne would have been delighted.
Maybe the Brummies were a little complacent but nonetheless it shows the character of this Eastbourne side; they're not having a great season but they're still scrapping and fighting hard.
They will also be boosted by the arrival of Mikkel Michelsen, who is a great signing. He is one of the most highly rated teenagers around right now and his arrival will be a big boost for the club as a whole.
It won't be easy for him coming in because he'll be quite nervous and Eastbourne's track, as I mentioned earlier, has its own demands, but it will be interesting to see how he gets on because the feeling is his signature is quite a coup for the Eagles. He's certainly an exciting addition to the Elite League.
Kelvin's Call: It's not easy to predict this one. If Birmingham won it wouldn't be a surprise but, with the boost of Michelsen's arrival and the fact Eastbourne pushed Birmingham so hard away from home last week, I'm going to go for an Eastbourne win. It could be quite tight, though, so I'll say the Eagles will finish the night with two points and Birmingham will pick up one.
Poole v Coventry - 7.30pm, Wednesday, Sky Sports 1 HD
This week Poole Pirates completed the marquee signing of Greg Hancock. It was quite a surprise to many people because Greg hasn't ridden in the UK for seven years and for all intents and purposes it looked like his British career was over; he lives in Sweden and has a busy schedule on the continent.
But Poole were desperately searching for a replacement for the injured world champion Chris Holder - club owner Matt Ford's phone bill must be astronomical from ringing around riders - but the timing seems to have been right for Hancock and the Pirates have made a great signing.
Hancock's Polish side Zielona Gora are struggling and are running out of meetings, while the American has hit form of late and is probably keen to keep on riding.
Despite enduring a difficult season, Poole are an attractive club, given their success in recent years, and, with the Pirates on the fringes of the top four, Hancock could make the difference for them.
Coventry, on the other hand, are in the midst of a confusing and frustrating season. They started the campaign slowly, got going, but then stuttered again.
Losing at home to Birmingham, a Midlands rival, on Friday would really have hurt them and they'll now be eager to respond to that disappointment. They need to pick up a point at the very least but it is tough to predict how they will perform.
The Bees have Krzysztof Kasprzak back from injury, though, which is a plus for them. He's been going well internationally and has plenty of experience of Poole, so they'll be looking to him and Scott Nicholls to lead the way, that's for sure.
Kelvin's Call: I'm going to go for a home win for Poole here. With new signing Hancock alongside Darcy Ward and Maciej Janowski I can't see Poole being beaten.