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Birmingham City Out to Increase Misery on Sunderland

A win for Birmingham City can give them a massive boost in their ambitions to avoid relegation as they host a below-par Sunderland at St Andrews.

Alex McLeish's side could only achieve a 1-1 draw with Blackburn last weekend, and as a result the statistics show they have only won one game since their Carling Cup triumph at Wembley back in February.

As a result of that, Birmingham sit only three points above the Premier League relegation zone with seven games remaining, but the Blues are blessed by having a game in hand on many of their rivals in trouble.

Birmingham fans could take some confidence from the fact their side have proved difficult to beat at St Andrews, having only lost four times at home so far this season. They are therefore priced at 5/4 to win this game with bookmakers.

They welcome a Sunderland side who have struggled since the turn of the year and are currently on a poor run of seven losses in their last eight games – which has seen them drop down the table and leave worried looks on fans' faces.

Striking duo Nikola Zigic and Obefemi Martins are both set to have fitness tests ahead of the visit of Sunderland, but they could face a battle to stop veteran Kevin Phillips lining up against his former club on Saturday.

The 37-year-old has started the last two games and helped Birmingham secure a win and a draw in those matches, and McLeish has stated it is now a "certainty" that Philips will play a lot over the rest of the season – and the veteran is 6/1 to score the first goal against Sunderland.

The Blues manager told talkSPORT: "He's been a bit of a talisman over the years in terms of knowing where to go in the box. If we can put teams under pressure then we know that Phillips is going to be very dangerous.

"His link up play is brilliant. He's got a fantastic touch. If you play the ball to his feet generally it sticks. That's a great advantage because that's something we haven't done too well over the last couple of years."

Blues defender Roger Johnson could also face a test and is not certain to play after concussion last time out and, with Martin Jiranek and Scott Dann both definitely ruled out, his absence could be a blow.

Sunderland need to turn their fortunes around if they want to ensure their safety and start to look at climbing the table, as they were in contention for a Europa League spot only a few months ago.

They have a defensive crisis with John Mensah, Titus Bramble, Michael Turner and possibly Anton Ferdinand all ruled out, but first-choice goalkeeper Craig Gordon could return.

Fraizer Campbell remains out along with David Meyler as Steve Bruce deals with a thread-bare squad. Sunderland are 13/5 to end their rut and get all three points.

Birmingham could put some valuable breathing space between themselves and the drop zone by getting all three points on Saturday, and McLeish is likely to be instilling the belief in his players that making St Andrews a fortress is a necessity to preserve their top-flight future.

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