Date:Tuesday August 21 2007
Despite the fact that Saturday will represent only the fourth Premier League fixture of the season, it is already being hailed as a crunch fixture for Birmingham City.
Steve Bruce may be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja-vu when he steps out into the technical area at Pride Park on Saturday as it was only just over a year ago that this very fixture was hanging over his head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.
This time there is no Stephen Clemence to rescue him, so he will have to depend on other members of his new squad to come up with the goods.
And come up with the goods they must, as three points from Derby will be instrumental in making sure that Blues do not spiral into a long run of losses.
Although it could be argued that they were unfortunate in last week`s game against Sunderland, playing three games in six days last week rendered his team poor and leggy and in the second half, they were little match for a well-rested West Ham side that had plenty of speed in reserve.
Also, the fans had been looking at this first run of fixtures as containing some distinctly "winnable" games and will be heartily disappointed that they are not now at least three or four points better off.
The finger is pointing firmly at Colin Doyle; his lack of Premier League experience is telling and although he proved to be a stalwart of the promotion-winning side last season, his youth and lack of guile at dealing with top-flight attacking play could prove to be very costly, both to the team and to his own confidence levels.
It will be interesting to see whether Bruce decides to throw old-hand Maik Taylor back into the fray on Saturday, although Taylor has his own critics for not commanding his area adequately enough at times.
Mikael Forssell is nursing a mild calf strain and has been withdrawn from the Finland side but is hoped to be fit for Saturday to take his place alongside O`Connor, where they seem to be working on a decent partnership.
The away end at Pride Park is likely to be a very tense place on Saturday afternoon. After their thrashing by Spurs last weekend, Billy Davies will be hoping that he can galvanise his side into a good performance.
Date:Tuesday August 21 2007
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