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West Ham and Birmingham City set for vital relegation clash

It is a real relegation six-pointer at Upton Park as West Ham United and Birmingham City sit level on points in the bottom three and either can climb to safety if they get all three points.

These two teams have clashed three times already this season and the shares have been spoilt with one win apiece and a draw. After a 2-2 draw in the league back in November, in which West Ham went 2-0 up but Birmingham came back for a share of the spoils, they clashed in the Carling Cup semi-finals.

For Ben Foster it is a return to the scene of his terrible goalkeeping blunder in the first leg at Upton Park, when he let a weak Carlton Cole shot slip through his legs and into the net.

Luckily for the former Manchester United goalkeeper, Birmingham managed a 3-1 win at St Andrews in the return game to book their Wembley place.

It is widely believed that Alex McLeish saved his job by winning that semi-final clash, as the pressure has been on the Scot because Birmingham have failed to replicate their good cup form in the league and with only four wins all season they have the equal-fewest victories along with Wigan. Bookmakers have the Blues at 5/2 to get the victory at Upton Park, with a draw priced at 12/5.

Birmingham have had some notable results despite sitting so close to the bottom of the table, as they have drawn at St Andrews with Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs while also securing a win over Chelsea, but with only one win in their last nine in the league they sit 18th in the table and McLeish needs to turn things around and quickly.

New loan signing Obafemi Martins remains a doubt for the clash as he is still awaiting a visa to complete the move from Rubin Kazan, but fellow January addition Curtis Davies could start the games if Roger Johnson fails to recover from a calf injury.

Cameron Jerome and Barry Ferguson both face a race against time to be fit for the game but long-term injury victims Scott Dann and James McFadden remain out for the relegation clash.

West Ham only sit one place behind Birmingham on goal difference and are 11/10 to win the clash as they have won their last two games in all competitions, and Avram Grant bolstered his squad in January with some experienced signings.

The Hammers got a confidence-boosting win at Blackpool in midweek but they have failed to register back-to-back wins in the Premier League so far this season, so Grant could stick to the same side that recorded that 3-1 victory through two goals from Victor Obinna and one from new signing Robbie Keane – with the Irishman 6/1 to score the first goal in this game.

A victory for either Birmingham or West Ham on Sunday lunchtime can lift themselves out of the Premier League relegation places and give the club a real morale boost in the far-from-glamorous battle to preserve their top-flight status.


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