It doesn’t matter who Birmingham City’s opposition are this weekend because Alex McLeish will just be relieved to be back at St Andrew’s and not facing a club from London.
The honeymoon has inevitably ended for McLeish’s Premier League new-boys and that is in no small part to a series of capital punishment.
Three straight league trips to London – against Chelsea, West Ham United and Fulham – have yielded a trio of defeats for Birmingham. The Blues can also add losses at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal to that set; in conclusion the capital has not been a happy hunting ground for the side of St Andrew’s.
So the sight of ‘Wigan Athletic (H)’ on the fixture list will have come as a welcome relief.
That’s not to say that the visit of the Latics will be a guaranteed three points, although a glance across the Greater Manchester outfit’s recent run of form should give Birmingham reason to be confident.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan haven’t won since January 16, a run of eight games inclusive of the FA Cup double-header with League Two Notts County.
Couple that with the fact that Birmingham have gone ten games unbeaten on home soil, a run stretching back to the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Bolton on September 26.
So it’s clear to who will be wearing the bookmakers’ favourites tag come 3pm on Saturday. Obviously, favourites or not, McLeish’s admittance that his Birmingham are ‘off the boil’ at the moment has caused some concern.
It was always highly unlikely that Blues would be able to maintain against-the-odds victories, unbeaten momentum and an unchanged starting line-up throughout the course of the season.
So, as he did at West Ham just over two weeks ago, McLeish is likely to freshen things up and that could mean a start for either Craig Gardner and Michel in midfield. The ankle injury that saw Barry Ferguson limp off against Fulham on Sunday isn’t as serious as was first thought and won’t rule him out.
McLeish faces a selection dilemma up front. There were some encouraging signs from the Cameron Jerome/James McFadden partnership at Craven Cottage but Christian Benitez’s contribution so far this season can’t be ignored, while Kevin Phillips is always an option.