Amid all the down-playing and expectation management surrounding Birmingham City's vital derby match with West Bromwich Albion, David Dunn yesterday declared this weekend's showdown as the most important league game of his career.

The City midfielder could not be more aware of the significance of tomorrow's meeting at St Andrew's as two beleaguered neighbours, close in more ways than one, go head-to-head in a fight for their top-flight lives.

Separated by just a five mile cross-city journey Birmingham and Albion are also side by side in the Premier-ship table with Dunn's team in the relegation zone, three points behind tomorrow's opponents.

Win and they will be out of the danger area for the first time since October 22, when a 2-0 defeat at Dunn's former employers, Blackburn Rovers, dumped them into the bottom three.

"It would be great for confidence. It would be the first time for a few months and, psychologically, it would be a big help for us," Dunn said.

Lose and they will allow Albion to open up a six-point lead over them, a gap that would not be cavernous but would certainly take more closing than Birmingham have so far demonstrated is within their capability.

Dunn, likely to make just his seventh start of the campaign after yet another injury-blighted season, did not try to hide from the meaning of the encounter.

"The old cliché about it being a six-pointer is certainly the case here. I have never played in a game where the points matter so much," he said.

"Psychologically, a defeat would be a terrible result for us. It is important that we don't get beat, that's a no-no."

That would leave Steve Bruce's side needing at least another five or six victories from their remaining ten matches and with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic to come in the next five weeks - teams all chasing a place in Europe - no one could be confident of such a positive return.

But Dunn, knowing they could not merely concede their Premiership status, was also keen to defuse the impact defeat would have on his side.

"Football tends to throw surprises at you and who says that if we do get beat on Saturday, we can't go and get a result at Chelsea or Manchester United?," he said. "There are still 27 points to play for.

"It doesn't mean the end of the road, even if the worst comes to the worst. We have still got to show character and there is no reason why we can't go somewhere else and get results," he said.

Certainly, on paper at least, they have the big names to worry even the division's leading teams. A mid-field including Dunn and completed by Nicky Butt, Jiri Jarosik and Jermaine Pennant and a strike pairing of Chris Sutton and Emile Heskey should be good enough to exist comfortably in mid-table. They might even be too good to go down.

"I thought that about Nottingham Forest a few years ago, but now I don't think it of any team," Dunn continued. "The league is that competitive. Who would have thought Chelsea would have been beaten 3-0 by Middlesbrough? Any team can beat any other.

"We have had terrible luck with injuries and people can say that's an excuse but it's a fact. If five or six of your top players are out then you are going to be struggling.

"You do miss players, I don't care which club you are at. If you take the likes of [Arjen] Robben, [Damien] Duff, [Didier] Drogba and [Frank] Lampard out of Chelsea's team, they wouldn't be the same, either."

Birmingham's fitness concerns have eased slightly with the news that on-loan defender Martin Latka will return to the squad.

Latka has recovered from the shin injury that forced his withdrawal from last week-end's trip to Middlesbrough and his return is a timely boost, given the likely absence of Kenny Cunningham and Matthew Upson.