Chelsea welcome the reigning Carling Cup champions, Birmingham City, to Stamford Bridge in an evening kickoff at Stamford Bridge. The situation is much different from when the two sides met in November, with Birmingham fighting for a spot in the top half of the table and Chelsea in the middle of one of the worst runs of form in the club’s history. That match ended 1-0 to Birmingham, courtesy of Lee Bowyer.
This time, Chelsea sit third in the table and are just two points behind Arsenal in second. With Arsenal meeting Tottenham at the same time, coupled with their poor run of form, Chelsea will be hoping to take over second and solidify their position in next year’s Champions League group stage.
Despite winning the Carling Cup and their first trophy in 48 years, Birmingham have had their own run of bad form and it has seen them slip to 14th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Their 2-0 win over Sunderland has given them a bit of breathing room in their fight for survival, but Birmingham will be looking to make sure that next year’s Europa League campaign starts as a member of the Premier League and not in the Championship.
Chelsea have just two confirmed absentees due to injury. Alex and Ramires will miss both matches this week with hamstring problems, while Branislav Ivanovic is doubtful after picking up an injury in training. Aside from that, the rest of the squad is fit and available for selection, though Carlo Ancelotti was giving nothing away in his press conference.
Birmingham have a host of injuries, including two influential players from the Carling Cup final. Nikola Zigic is nursing a groin injury and so is the winning goal scorer from that afternoon, Obafemi Martins. Their injuries mean that Cameron Jerome is likely to start up front. David Bentley is doubtful with a groin strain, while Jean Beausejour is available after recovering from a hamstring strain.
This will not be an easy match for Birmingham if history has anything to say about it. They have not won a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, having lost four and drawn two. They have also not scored in five of their last seven league matches against Chelsea.