While both sides suffer from a sense of vertigo, their recent form should not hide the fact that Birmingham’s Blue and Claret teams are having very impressive seasons. While all the talk has been about Martin O’Neill and his flying youngsters at Villa, a word must go out to Birmingham who, until recently, were pushing the big boys for a European place.
Villa have suffered two home draws in as many games and may be showing signs of weariness in the closing stages of the season. Birmingham are currently sat in 9th place, presumably much higher than the board expectations handed to Alex McLeish in September. It has been their home form that has kept them well away from the relegation struggles of the other promoted teams and the stats even match those of their city rivals.
Both team’s have lost just 2 games at home, they have 7 wins each and The Blues have drawn one game less at home with 6 compared to Villa’s 7. If City can go on to making St.Andrew’s the fortress that Villa Park has become then they will be taking a big step towards staying in the league for many years.
Villa have been struggling of late. They still remain the only team not to lose a league game in 2010, but two draws at home to Wolves and Sunderland have dented any hopes of a fourth place finish. The Europa League now seems to be a realistic target and one that Villa should have already done enough to secure. The only worry in my eyes would be that, once again, they have failed to break into that top four, especially given the failings of Liverpool who have provided the perfect opportunity for aspiring clubs to do so. To criticise Martin O’Neill would be foolish. They did of course reach the Carling Cup Final, and were unlucky not to have been the winners of it. The next step for Villa would surely be to make steps in Europe. As much as the Europa League has been criticised in England, it is still viewed as a major title in Europe. The matches it has produced this season have arguably proved better viewing than those of its old brother, the Champions League. The likes of Valencia, Hamburg and Atletico Madrid will all be very keen to lift the trophy and it would only enhance Villa’s reputation should they achieve a similar feet to that of Fulham, next season.
For Birmingham, the future is very bright. New owner Carson Yeung has promised to provide a substantial amount of money for new players this summer. The examples of Chelsea and Manchester City would suggest that this can only be a good thing, if the right players are signed. Alex McLeish is an astute manager; he knows the type of players needed to succeed in this league, and will surely sign Premier League quality. If he gets through the summer and begins next season well, we could see a shift in power in Birmingham. The thought of City overtaking Villa as the city’s top team would have been a ridiculous thought one year ago, but money can buy talent, and in doing, combined with West Brom’s potential return, we could witness one of the best battles between Birmingham sides for some time.
What a season we have in store for 2010/11!