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Premier League preview: Chelsea v Birmingham

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Apr 2011

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Their priorities could not be more different, but Chelsea and Birmingham both need points when they meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Chelsea looked on course for a second successive English Premier League title at the end of October, riding high on top of the table and appearing invincible.

But the wheels began to fall off for Carlo Ancelotti’s side soon after, and they embarked on a dreadful spell that saw them win just two of 11 league games.

Although they have arrested that slide since the New Year, they find themselves eight points behind league leaders Manchester United in third place with six games to play.

It means they need a perfect run home to have any hope of retaining their title.

The Londoners were also eliminated from the Champions League last Tuesday at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, heaping even more pressure on Ancelotti.

However, in their most recent game, goals from Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Frank Lampard helped them to a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday.

For Alex McLeish’s Birmingham side, avoiding relegation has become priority number one.

Since claiming the Carling Cup with a fantastic 2-1 win over Arsenal on February 27, Birmingham’s league form has dipped considerably.

City have claimed just two wins from six league games to leave them five points above the drop zone, although they did enjoy a 2-0 win over Sunderland in their last start.

Birmingham’s cup win broke a 48-year silverware drought for the Midlands club, and they are keen to avoid becoming just the second side to win the League Cup and be relegated in the same season after Norwich suffered that fate in 1985.

Chelsea will be looking to exact revenge for the 1-0 loss they suffered at St Andrew’s on November 20, when a Lee Bowyer goal and some heroics from goalkeeper Ben Foster handed McLeish’s men a memorable win.

McLeish has a lengthy injury list to juggle, with strikers Obafemi Martins and James McFadden under fitness clouds. Towering Serb Nikola Zigic could return from a groin complaint, however.

Goalkeeper Maik Taylor (shoulder), defender Scott Dann (hamstring) and midfielder Enric Valles (foot) are all out.

Chelsea will be without Brazilian duo Alex and Ramires for Wednesday’s clash.

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