Damien Johnson will be fit to play for Birmingham City's match at Middlesbrough on Saturday - and to renew acquaintances with Emanuel Pogatatz.

Johnson suffered a knee injury in the victory against Sunderland last weekend but is available for a match that requires Birmingham to win in their fight against relegation.

The sub-plot, however, will be Johnson's meeting with Pogatatz. Their most recent encounter was last October when Northern Ireland played Austria. Both were sent off when Pogatatz grabbed Johnson by the throat after the Birmingham midfield player showed no restraint when going for the ball.

Five months on and both clubs are in the lower regions of the Premiership table.

Middlesbrough, who defeated West Bromwich Albion last week, should survive but Birmingham are in a fight for their lives.

That is why the expected return of Johnson is so important to Steve Bruce, the Birmigham manager, who is concerned at how many of his players have been injured in the past 18 months.

It was initially feared that Johnson sustained damaged knee ligaments, which could have put him out for the remainder of the season, but a medical report revealed that the problem was minor and requires only a bit of rest.

Johnson has enjoyed a pivotal role in midfield for Birmingham this season and Bruce cannot afford to miss such a hard-working, inspirational figure. Bruce said: "We think he might be OK for the weekend, which is good news. His was a direct blow to the knee but he did not damage any ligaments."

In one sense, Johnson is just the type of player required in a battle to avoid relegation. His workrate does much to make Birmingham tick and he has typified their style of play over the past four years.

Chris Sutton, the striker, is rated as doubtful to face Middlesbrough after being substituted at half time against Sunderland with a groin injury. Muzzy Izzet is out of action with a calf injury.

However, Neil Kilkenny, David Dunn, Stan Lazaridis and Jamie Clapham are fit and available for selection.