Birmingham v Stoke – Capital One Cup match preview

Mark Hughes - Stoke City managerBirmingham City will be looking to continue their love affair with the Capital One Cup as they meet Mark Hughes’ Stoke City at St. Andrew’s in Round 4.

Despite seeing themselves fall out of the top-flight and towards the lower echelons of the Championship, Birmingham have already eliminated current holders Swansea City in the previous round and will believe they have a genuine chance of making their second final in four years after winning the competition in 2011.

This is the furthest they have been in the Capital One Cup since that 2-1 final victory over Arsenal at Wembley, which gives the Blues faithful some hope to cling on to and to take their minds of their depleting league form.

Stoke City look like a completely different footballing outfit under Mark Hughes compared to former boss Tony Pulis, but they have still struggled to get results so far this season. However, they will take a lot of confidence from their performance against Manchester United at the weekend, despite twice throwing away a lead to lose 3-2.

Although Hughes has got the Potters playing a more pretty style of football this season, they have still struggled to find the net regularly. Before their double at Old Trafford, they had gone three league games with registering.

And that will be a cause for concern for Hughes ahead of this tie, particularly as they haven’t scored a single goal in their last four visits to St. Andrew’s.

Birmingham, on the other hand, have scored 16 goals in their last five Capital One Cup fixtures and have won four of their last six games against against Premier League opposition in this competition, including their 2011 final victory over Arsenal.

Of all the ties in this Capital One Cup Round 4, this one is probably the hardest to call. Stoke are struggling for goals, while Birmingham enjoy scoring in this competition, as well as at home, with them finding the net on no less than 12 times in their last four home fixtures.

Kenwyne Jones is arguably Stoke’s biggest threat with four goals in the Capital One Cup already this season, but Hughes may be without new arrival Marko Arnautovic who was subbed off during their game at the weekend with an illness.

The hosts will be without Chris Burke Jesse Lingard and will give late fitness tests to Tom Adeyemi and David Murphy.

Of all the potential upsets round four has to offer, this one may well be up there. Birmingham have a good track record in this competition and have no problem with scoring goals, while Stoke are the complete opposite having not reached the quarter-finals since the 2008/2009 season and having scored just five goals in their last seven games in all competitions.

That said, Mark Hughes won this trophy three times as a player and will be looking to add success as a manger to that haul.

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