Birmingham v Aston Villa, Premier League, September 13, 2009
As Peter Enckelman can testify, this is the one match of the season which both teams will know that mistakes will not be tolerated.
Villains boss Martin O’Neill is set to field a brand spanking new backline in Sunday’s spicy Second City derby with Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
The Midlanders were forced into transfer action just before the close of the the transfer window after losing defender Curtis Davies for a lengthy period after the centre-half underway surgery for a shoulder injury. That left Carlos Cuellar as the only senior defender left standing in the squad, and so necessity required that reinforcements be found.
Splashing the cash, Villa signed Richard Dunne from Manchester City and James Collins (12/1 to score) from West Ham, and the duo are likely to make their debuts for their new club in Villa’s feistiest match of the season away at the old enemy. The Villains will also be hoping recall Luke Young to the first team as the full-back also a period on the sidelines. (Villa are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
After a slow start to the new campaign Villa have launched up the table in recent weeks, buoyed by the superb form of Ashley Young (9/1 to score first) and Gabi Agbonlahor (7/4 to score) up front. Neither forward were involved in the international break, and accordingly both will be full of energy to return to the field.
Villa have dominated the recent clashes having won the last four league derbies both home and away, including a 5-1 thrashing of the Blues the last time the teams met back in April 2008. Alex McLeish’s side will be desperate to put in a much better performance this time around, however they will have to do so nursing several important absentees. Missing from action will be Cameron Jerome (ankle), Gregory Vignal (hip), Marcus Bent (hamstring), Martin Taylor (foot), Scott Dann (thigh) and Liam Ridgewell (broken leg).
Having been unlucky to lose at Spurs in their last Premier League match though, the Blues will be in high spirits that they can continue their positive early season form at home in which they have taken four points from their two fixtures at St Andrew’s without conceding a goal.
Responsibility for making sure the Blues stay in control of the match against Villa will fall on the shoulders of experience duo Lee Carsley and Lee Bowyer in the centre of the park. Sebastian Larsson (16/1 to score first) will likely continue as the go-between from the midfield to the attack, with James McFadden (9/1 to score first) and big summer signing Christian Benitez (12/1 to score a brace) leading the line.
Expecting a tough tackling, blood and thunder occasion, a sending off could well be in the offing although the forecast of a goal blitz seems less likely.
101predicts: Birmingham 1 - Aston Villa 1 (5/1)
Full match odds here.