By Giuseppe Muro
Arsenal are favourites to beat Birmingham and lift the Carling Cup at Wembley on Sunday - but by no means should Alex McLeish’s side be taken lightly.
The Blues haven’t been to Wembley since 1956 so what chance do they have of lifting a trophy on their return to the ‘home’ of English football? We spoke to Colin Tattum of the Birmingham Mail to get an opposition perspective on the game.
It’s massive, it’s their biggest game since 2001 when they got to the Carling Cup Final against Liverpool. That was at Cardiff and they have not been to Wembley since 1956, that alone tells its own story. Through Birmingham’s history they’ve hardly won any silverware of note so the opportunity to get a trophy that matters is significant. It is a major game for the team and the supporters.
THE STORY SO FAR
They had some lower league teams in the earlier rounds but, ultimately, you have to beat who is in front of you. As Arsenal are aware, you should never write Birmingham off, they are difficult to beat and they can come back from seemingly lost causes. This season they have the scent of Wembley, and that Cup success, in their nostrils.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
The Cup run was a help - immediately after beating West Ham, they got back-to-back wins for the first time in 14 months. It put a spring in their step and gave the players the belief that they are a good team and what they did last season wasn’t a fluke. If you are winning and get to a Final, it gives everyone great belief which we have seen in the League following the games since the Semi-Final.
SILENCING THE CRITICS
The tag of underdogs will suit them. I think they are better when they are playing against the bigger teams like Arsenal, they tend to raise their game. That said, probably one of the most one-sided games they have had this season was against Arsenal at St. Andrews. They know what Arsenal are capable of if they are allowed to play football and express themselves. I think Arsenal are overwhelming favourites to be honest. I don’t think that is any disrespect to anyone at Birmingham but they certainly aren’t there to make up the numbers. They have got experienced characters and have got real hunger to win the trophy. They are not just turning up to have a nice day at Wembley.
Like he has always set up against Arsenal, McLeish will look to have a solid midfield and look to negate the influence of the full backs getting forward. Birmingham accept that they are not going to have the lion’s share of possession but when they do get the ball they have to make it count. Their strength aerially could be a key factor for Birmingham because if they go toe-to-toe with Arsenal, Arsenal will come out on top.