Birmingham are 3 places, 2 points and 15 goals worth of difference behind us in the league with them occupying 15th place against our 12th place.
They’re also just 3 places and 4 points above the relegation zone, although personally I think they’ll survive.
If we can take all 3 points and Stoke and West Brom have poor results we can sneak into 10th which, judging by his recent comments, is now Alan Pardew’s aim for the remaining 3 games.
Mike Williamson Injured – Steven Taylor In
Of course, thanks to a recent training ground mishap, Mike Williamson won’t be partnering Coloccini in his usual place in central defence. This means a return for Steven Taylor, about whom Pardew said:
“Steve had a fantastic younger part of his career and then he’s hit a bit of levelling-off when he’s not gone forward or backwards. That can be dangerous for a player. He needs to get his career moving in the right direction again.
“He’s a young centre-half with tremendous qualities and he must have the mentality to use those.
“He was a bit unfortunate when he first came back into the team because he ended up playing in a couple of positions that weren’t his favoured one. I wanted to see what he could offer at right-back but now he’s back playing in his natural position.
“We’ve changed his training programme and his diet because he was getting too muscular on top. We’ve tried to slim him down a little bit and he looks better for that. He looks quicker.
“Steve’s got the technical ability to become an England player but to do that, you’ve got to be fit every week. Unfortunately his fitness and injuries have been a big issue and probably one of the reasons he’s flattened out.“
Ah, so it was Taylor’s job to eat all the pies after Mark Viduka left. I did wonder. Still, it seems we should now be seeing a slimmed down mean machine on Saturday.
Further to Thump’s report about Williamson’s injury, Pardew has been more specific about how it occurred. Pardew said:
“He was doing a pull-up that went wrong and broke the bone in the top of his arm. It wasn’t as if he was messing around. In fact, he was being supervised and was just unlucky.“
It looks as if we’ll most like have a starting XI along the lines of: Tim Krul (or Steve Harper), Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands.
Birmingham will probably line up something like: Ben Foster, Stephen Carr, Roger Johnson, Martin Jiranek, Liam Ridgewell, Sebastian Larsson, Barry Ferguson, David Bentley/Keith Fahey, Lee Bowyer, Kevin Phillips and Cameron Jerome.
Craig Gardner (suspended) and Nikola Zigic (who is currently injured) are Birmingham’s top scorers with 9 and 8 goals respectively.
Pardew’s assessment of Birmingham goes as follows:
“Birmingham are a side right in the scrap and that is part of their game. They don’t make anything easy for you, and for us it is a very important game. We go into it on the back of Liverpool and need to put a performance in where we show we are committed in these last three games.“
After beating Birmingham 2-0 at St Andrew’s we’ll be looking to do the double over them and, whilst I think we’re perfectly safe now anyway, another 3 points should dispel the fears of even the most ardent of relegation doomsayers.
Kick of is at 3PM on Saturday and Chris Foy officiates.
Howay the lads!