Birmingham boss Alex McLeish insisted his side's current lofty position in the Premier League was "no fluke" as he saluted the never-say-die spirit of his players.

City have gone nine games without defeat, collecting 21 points in the process, and climbed into seventh spot in the table.

They face a massive challenge to extend that run into double figures with the visit of leaders Chelsea to St Andrew's on Boxing Day. But McLeish has faith in his squad to provide a demanding test to Carlo Ancelotti's team.

He said: "We have got a hard schedule ahead of us over the festive period and we've got to try and take some bonus points.

"We played Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham and acquitted ourselves well without getting anything from the games.

"We finally got something off one of the big clubs when we went to Anfield recently (a 2-2 draw). There's no reason why we can't pick up other points in this crucial period.

"Will we have tough test against Chelsea? We are hoping it will be a tough test for Chelsea. People are now saying we should be beating teams like Chelsea!

"I am jesting but we certainly feel we have got the players to make Chelsea know they have been in a really tough game."

McLeish added: "It is no fluke what we have done. It's been fantastic to get the results we have had recently.

"The players' application, the work-rate, but also the skill they've shown, has been fantastic. They have shown that if the chips are down, if we suffer a setback in the game, they've got it in their locker to bounce back.

"That is a sign of great character. We have done it, I think, since day one. It's not just the recent run. We sowed the seeds in the early part of the season, which has entitled us to believe in ourselves and have the confidence to get these magnificent results.

"I think the power in the dressing room is fantastic. The sum of all parts, they say, makes something quite formidable.

"We've got everybody pulling together and we also have had consistency of selection."

However, McLeish, who is giving his players Christmas Day off, will not allow his squad to rest on their laurels.

He said: "I think they have surpassed my expectations but that doesn't mean to say they think they've got leeway and they can ease up. Far from it."

Left-back Liam Ridgewell (ankle) and central defender Roger Johnson (knee) are expected to recover from knocks suffered in the 1-1 draw at Everton on Sunday.