Premier League preview: Sunderland v Birmingham

Birmingham City will be hoping their unbeaten home record against bottom-half opposition can stay intact when they meet Sunderland on Saturday.With the season slowly drawing to a close, both sides will be eager to obtain maximum points to aid their fight against relegation in the English Premier League.

City are sitting in 16th, three points from the relegation zone, and will be looking to build on their momentum after they collected four points from their last two matches, which saw them overcome Bolton and pick up a 1-1 draw with Blackburn.

Birmingham boss, Alex McLeish, will be glad to welcome back defender Roger Johnson, who was concussed in last week’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn.

Serbian striker Nikola Zigic, despite showing progress with his hip problem which was aggravated on international duty, could sit out on the sidelines for a second consecutive match, while midfielder David Bentley returns to the squad.

It’s an important game for City, and one they cannot afford to drop given their next two fixtures are away at Chelsea and Liverpool, not to mention their season finale at Tottenham.

The club has been unsettled in the past week by the uncertainty over the future of several players, most notably Swedish midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who could depart the Midlands club regardless of their fate in the relegation battle.

It’s also an important clash for the visitors, Sunderland, who have registered only one point from eight matches and have also failed to score in their past three away league games.

Sunderland dropped a place to 13th after their 3-2 loss to the Roy Hodgson-galvanised West Bromwich Albion, and were handed a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City the match prior.

Additionally, they travel to the Midlands with a myriad of injury problems that have resulted in a skeletal squad.

Injury-prone John Mensah, on loan from French giants Olympique Lyon, is out for the month after tearing his groin muscle.

On-loan midfielder Sulley Muntari is also expected to miss the clash due to a calf strain, as will Frazier Campbell, who has been ruled out for the season.

The Black Cats, however, could welcome back Kieran Richardson and Titus Bramble, while Anton Ferdinand remains a doubt for the fixture.

In Sunderland’s favour is a comparably easier home stretch in contrast to Birmingham’s, with the welcoming of bottom side Wigan Athletic and Mark Hughes’ Fulham in the following weeks, and then clashes with Bolton, Wolverhampton and West Ham.