Premiership strugglers West Ham and Birmingham are set to square off in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg that will be played at Boleyn Ground. Both sides should be more concerned with their Premiership survival battle, but a game like this will not be taken lightly by either of the managers, that’s for sure.
Avram Grant in precarious position
After barely surviving the last two seasons in the Premiership, the Hammers have continued to struggle and they are now considered one of the main candidates for the drop. They were always going to have problems with Avram Grant in charge and the general opinion is the club management should replace him with before it’s too late. The Hammers did show some improvement lately, winning three of their last five games in all competitions, but the 5:0 defeat at St James Park quickly grounded Avram Grant’s side. West Ham progressed to the next round of the FA Cup by eliminating Barnsley but they now face a very difficult job against Birmingham as they look to create an advantage before the return leg.
Carlton Cole seems to have earned a starting place after bagging two goals against Barnsley, with Obinna and Sears set to provide support from the wings. Benni McCarthy, Lars Jacobsen, Herita Ilunga, Manuel Da Costa, Anthony Edgar, Peter Kurucz and Thomas Hitzlsperger remain sidelined.
Blues finally improving
Birmingham are experiencing unexpected problems this term as the Blues were tipped for a safe mid table finish following a very successful last season. Nonetheless, it seems the arrival of new players destabilized what had been a homogenous unit and Brum are still struggling to find their form. As a result, they are now just one point above the relegation zone, which is something nobody at the club is too happy about. Alex McLeish’s side players restored some of the lost confidence as they beat Blackpool and Milwall on the road, meaning they enter the West Ham game in pretty good spirits. Birmingham will be looking to record a good result before the return leg at their St Andrew’s and they definitely look capable of avoiding defeat at Boleyn Ground.
Ben Foster and Cameron Jerome return to the side after they were rested against Barnsley, while Seba Larsson is also pushing for a starting place. James McFadden remain the only long-term absentee.
West Ham are in pieces at the moment and everybody expects the departure of Avram Grant, players included. There is no doubt the Hammers will try everything to win this game, but that looks unlikely seeing they will be pitted against revived Birmingham, the team that won their last two away games.
Our prediction: Birmingham not to lose
Odds: 1.62 (8/13)