Premier League preview: Everton v Birmingham City

Birmingham City will hope to shake off a Carling Cup hangover when they play Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Birmingham stunned Arsenal 2-1 at Wembley to win the Carling Cup on February 27.

It was just the second piece of major silverware in the Midlands club’s history – their only other success came in the same competition way back in 1963.

But they suffered a damaging 3-1 loss at home to local rivals West Bromwich Albion in their first match back in league action and remain in danger of souring their cup final triumph with relegation to the Championship.

Next up is a trip to Merseyside to face an inconsistent but dangerous Everton.

David Moyes’ team accounted for FA Cup holders Chelsea with a penalty shootout win on February 26, then conspired to lose to second tier Reading in the fifth round last week.

Everton’s league form has also been patchy, but they have won their last two matches, 2-0 at home to Sunderland and 2-1 away to Newcastle.

While they are unlikely to be dragged into the relegation battle, Moyes will be eager to increase the six-point gap between 10th-placed Everton and Birmingham in 18th on 30 points with two matches in hand.

The visitors will be without defender Scott Dann for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury, while midfielders Alexander Hleb, Barry Ferguson and Craig Gardner are all in doubt.

Everton have fewer concerns, with only midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill ruled out.

In the absence of two of their key men, Everton are likely to rely even more on Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta, who impressed in the win at Newcastle.

“I thought he (Arteta) was outstanding, absolutely outstanding,” Everton assistant coach Steve Round said.

“He was creative, he was elusive, he could have created three or four goals and it was a terrific performance.”

“We moved him to the left for tactical reasons because we thought he might get more space and it worked, he delivered.”

“I think you have seen Mikel steadily over the last six weeks improving his performance.”

“He is really starting to come through again, whether you play him in the middle, on the right or the left. If he’s in that form he is unstoppable.”

 


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