Blues can outgun ‘busy’ Arsenal: McLeish

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish believes Arsenal’s fixture backlog will give his side an excellent of chance of claiming their first trophy in 48 years.

Sunday’s Carling Cup final between the two sides will be the first in a taxing run for Arsene Wenger’s men involving four games in 10 days.

After the Wembley meeting with Birmingham, Arsenal take on Leyton Orient on Wednesday in an FA Cup fifth-round replay, before meeting Sunderland in English Premier League action next Saturday.

The run culminates with a trip to face Barcelona in a blockbuster Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie, and with injuries to Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott already troubling Wenger, McLeish believes he could be getting the Gunners at the best possible time.

“Arsenal have a huge fixture congestion, so Arsene is going to have his work cut out thinking about selection for these games, so maybe that can be in our favour,” McLeish told the BBC.

“It’s an opportunity – it’s another massive challenge for us. We’ve met many massive challenges this season but we certainly see this one as an opportunity.”

Despite acknowledging his primary concern remains Premier League survival, McLeish said the he would love to end a 48-year drought in the St Andrews trophy room on Sunday.

“Our bread and butter, our reason for being, is the Barclays Premier League – no doubt about it,” he said.

“That is where everybody wants to be. And we know of the consequences of going out the league, it can be very costly for clubs.”

“But we’re in the final of the Carling Cup.”

“They’ve (Birmingham supporters) gone a long, long time without silverware. I can’t guarantee anything, but I would love to make those fans proud this weekend.”

“The players have given everything, they couldn’t have given anything more – that’s all you can ask.”

In other Cup final news, Wembley Stadium managing director Roger Maslin moved to reassure both managers there would be no problems with the playing surface.

Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the Wembley pitch for a severe hamstring injury suffered by Michael Owen in last year’s league cup final, and Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has also been a vocal critic of the Wembley pitch.

But Maslin installed a Desso pitch in June last year – a system that uses synthetic grass to reinforce natural grass, and is the preferred surface for many top European clubs.

“For Arsenal who have a Desso surface they will recognise the quality of surface, the lack of divots and the speed of play. It’s in fantastic condition,” Maslin said.

“It’s fundamental to our business plan to have the best possible playing surface, but at the same time it accords with our business plan as a multi-use venue.”

“I won’t lose any sleep worrying about how the pitch will play now the changes have been made.”

 


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