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    Apr 2009

    Exclamation Birmingham v Nottm Forest Preview: Clash of the Award Winners

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    Alex McLeish is the Premier League manager of the month for December and Billy Davies won the award at Nottingham Forest in the Championship.

    So something has to give in the battle of the unbeatables when the pair meet again at St Andrew's to settle their FA Cup third round replayand earn the right to face Everton following the draw at Forest's City Ground 10 days ago.

    Birmingham's draw with Manchester United at the weekend saw them eclipse a club undefeated record that was set 102 years ago and was further confirmation of the potent force McLeish is putting together for new owner Carson Yeung.

    Regular watchers of McLeish's team admitted Forest, second in the Championship and undefeated for 19 games in all competitions, posed them far more problems than Sir Alex Ferguson's reigning Premier League champions managed.

    McLeish is not too concerned with statistics and breaking records and prefers to keep his eye on the bigger picture of stabilising the club in the Premier League this season, something which an extended FA Cup run could jeopardise, because of his small squad.

    He is eager to make additions this month, but has already drawn a line through his pursuit of Kenwyne Jones, the Sunderland striker, because the total deal could have cost the club in excess of 25m.

    Sunderland want 15m and, with add-ons and a weekly wage demand of 70,000 from the Trinidad and Tobago striker, McLeish has decided to look elsewhere.

    "The players want me to bring in new players. They need some help and there are two or three names that they would be happy to see," said McLeish.

    "I have to balance things. I don't want to bring in players that would upset the equilibrium within the squad. Certain types who cost too much. Certain types who might not fit the dressing room.

    "We will look to do things and we are working on it, but for now we are concentrating on trying to win another game and to keep our run going. We will suffer a defeat at some stage, but we want to delay that for as long as possible."

    Strategy: McLeish made six alterations to his side for the original tie and was fortunate to get a second chance to progress to the fourth round. He is likely to be equally creative with his line-up against Forest. Joe Hart will most likely make way for Maik Taylor, the Northern Ireland international goalkeeper.

    McLeish is awaiting fitness reports on Stuart Parnaby and Gregory Vignal as he ponders resting full backs Stephen Carr and Liam Ridgewell. Central defender Martin Taylor made the substitutes' bench against United on Saturday and could be in line for his first game of the season after an ankle injury.

    Giving fringe players an opportunity is something McLeish is keen to do. Making the correct number of alterations, that will not disturb the good thing his side have going at the moment will be the difficult thing. New 2.9m signing Michel, from Spanish side Sporting Gijon, will not be available for selection, because he was not signed in time to register him for the original tie.

    Injury Update: Parnaby (back) and Vignal (hamstring) face late fitness tests. Midfielder Lee Carsley is still suffering with an ankle ligament injury collected in the first meeting between the two teams. Garry O'Connor and David Murphy remain long term absentees.

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