Tottenham Hotspur face a Birmingham City team fighting for English Premier League survival on the last day of the season at White Hart Lane.Relegation was the furthest thing from the minds of Birmingham’s players and supporters when they won the Carling Cup in February.
An upset 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Wembley secured the Midlands club’s first major trophy since 1963, but it has been all downhill for Alex McLeish’s team since then.
They have won just twice in 11 league matches and are now 17th in the table, level on points with the third and second-bottom teams and clear of the relegation zone on goal difference only.
With four other teams all battling to avoid the drop, Birmingham must pick up points on Sunday or risk returning to the Championship after a two-year stay in the top flight.
They are up against a Tottenham side that need to win if they are to stay ahead of Liverpool and secure a Europa League berth by finishing fifth.
But questions have been raised as to whether or not Tottenham do in fact want to finish fifth.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is reportedly reluctant to become involved in a Europa League campaign which may impact negatively on the team’s domestic form.
Tottenham are eight points off fourth place and unable to repeat last season’s Champions League qualification.
They performed well in their first appearance in the revamped European Cup, reaching the quarter-finals before bowing out to Real Madrid.
And rather than get bogged down in UEFA’s second-tier competition, Redknapp may want his team to concentrate their energies next season on returning to the Champions League.
All of which means Birmingham could find Spurs in a more charitable mood than might normally be expected.
The relegation-threatened visitors have no new injury concerns, but continue to miss a number of key men.
Defender Scott Dann and striker Obafemi Martins are definitely out, while towering centre-forward Nikola Zigic is not expected to recover from a groin injury – all absences that have counted in Birmingham’s late-season collapse.
The Tottenham squad is also depleted, with fullback Alan Hutton and left winger Gareth Bale certain to miss out.
Also in doubt are goalkeeper Hurelho Gomes, defenders Benoit Assou-Ekotto and William Gallas, as well as midfielders Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas.