Our Brighton and Hove Albion FC reporter Patrick Gleeson looks ahead to this weekend’s game against Birmingham.
Albion travel to St Andrew’s on Saturday in attempt to take advantage of Birmingham City’s current plight and return home to the South coast with a valuable 3 points. Gus Poyet goes nose-to-nose with Blues boss Lee Clark, who he knows all too well from their time in League One when Clark was in charge of Huddersfield.
Birmingham are having a tough time of late, having not won in their last 5 in all competitions, and go into the game on the back of a disappointing 2-1 home victory to Leeds United in their FA Cup 3rd round replay, courtesy of a Ross McCormack goal and a penalty kick from El-Hadji Diouf.
Lee Clark and his team find themselves in 20th in the Championship table, just 5 points above the drop zone, despite some promising performances against Cardiff and Huddersfield.
Birmingham Last 5: L D D L L
Albion, on the other hand, are searching for their fourth consecutive victory of 2013 and continue their reignited surge towards the top 6. The Seagulls currently sit in 8th place and 3 points adrift from the all elusive play-off places, but do have a 1 game advantage over the side immediately above them, Millwall.
Brighton Last 5: W W W L D
Brighton could hand a debut to new Argentinean striker Leonardo Ulloa who completed his £2m move from Spanish second division side Almeria this week. The 26-year-old signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at the Amex and could go straight into the starting 11 if he receives international clearance on time.
Right-back Bruno looks set to miss his 6th game out of 7 with an Achilles injury with Inigo Calderon likely to continue in his place, but fellow Spaniard Vicente is likely to keep his seat on the bench after months on the sideline.
Birmingham could hand another start to goalkeeper Colin Doyle for the fixture after speculation continues to grow regarding the future of 19-year-old Jack Butland, but Blues have no fresh injury worries from their midweek tie against Leeds and are able to name an unchanged side.
Head to Head
Albion have not claimed a victory over the Midlands outfit since their return to the Championship. A tiresome 0-0 at St Andrew’s in October 2011 was followed by a 1-1 draw at the Amex in the reverse fixture of the 2011/12 season, and a wonderful strike from Chris Burke was enough to send the Blues home with the 3 points in this season’s clash.
Players to watch
Marlon King (Birmingham)
King’s pace and clever movement has the potential to terrorise the centre-back pairing of Gordon Greer and Adam El-Abd who have proved to be rather sluggish on more than one occasion this term. King has scored 12 leagues goals and provided 3 assists for the Blues in his 22 appearances.
Andrea Orlandi (Brighton)
When the Spaniard is in full-flow he is a pleasure to watch. Willing to run with the ball, the ability to penetrate defences with his admirable technique, and on more than one occasion has displayed his powerful, long-ranged strikes on goal - Andrea Orlandi looks like a very shrewd signing indeed by Gus Poyet.
Kickoff is scheduled for 15:00, Saturday 19th January.