Birmingham vs Wolves preview - Zigic back in contention

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Posted Sunday, May 01, 2011 by PA

Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic could return for the Barclays Premier League derby with relegation rivals Wolves at St Andrew's on Sunday.

The Serbia international has been troubled with a groin problem recently but has resumed full training.

Zigic's return would be a welcome boost as Obafemi Martins has been ruled out for the season with a stress fracture of the leg which has required surgery.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster has recovered from the back spasm and dead leg which forced him to be substituted against Liverpool last weekend.

With the on-loan Obafemi Martins sidelined for the remainder of the season, Zigic's return will be a massive boost for Birmingham.

He took time to adjust to the top flight in this country but the striker was in fine form before the setback and had netted eight goals.

McLeish told Press Association Sport: "We're trying to get Ziggy into the squad for the Wolves game.

"It depends on the training session and how he reacts.

"He's been training with the physio on his own and they've been putting him through his paces on a one-to-one basis.

"But for him to join the full group of players for training is an indication that he's ready to come back."

McLeish added: "Listen, Ziggy was at the best form since he came to the club before the injury.

"In the Carling Cup final, he scored a goal and made a goal. In the semi-final against West Ham, he transformed the game for us.

"He scored the winner against Stoke. His form was that of a top centre-forward at the time.

"To lose him, at his peak, was difficult to swallow. We also miss him when defending set-pieces sometimes. Depending on our personnel, we can be a small team.

"But then we have got players like Cameron Jerome, Kevin Phillips, Matt Derbyshire who are the sole surviving strikers and these are all terrific players in their own right."

Birmingham have endured a gruelling schedule after two lengthy cup runs and a lengthy injury list.

But McLeish believes they still have enough in reserve for the final four games of the season.

He said: "They have definitely put themselves on the line at certain times.

"Players have been taking injections to play, really committing themselves, determined not to miss games. You have got to applaud that kind of attitude, determination.

"We have needed those ingredients this season. I think we have just about got every ounce out of these players this year.

"But I can see on the training ground that there's still some energy there.

"The fans will also help them get an extra couple of percent energy-wise if they are at their best as well."

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy will check on the fitness of striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

Ebanks-Blake was left out of the midweek defeat at Stoke to avoid aggravating the hamstring problem which flared up again during the 1-1 home draw with Fulham last weekend.

Defender George Elokobi (hamstring) and midfielder Dave Edwards (back) will resume training next week while striker Kevin Doyle (knee) remains on the sidelines - but Steven Fletcher is expected to be fit after a knee problem.

McCarthy admits Wolves may struggle to attain the points needed for survival if there is any repeat of their dismal midweek performance at Stoke.

Wolves were beaten 3-0 to remain in the bottom three and have collected only point from the last four games, conceding 11 goals in the process.

The plus point for McCarthy is that Wolves have not been cut adrift.

But McCarthy is aware there has to be a massive improvement for Wolves to arrest their current slide back towards the npower Championship after two seasons of top-flight football.

He said: "We are not a long way adrift. Look at West Ham's recent run, Blackpool's run, Blackburn's run, Wigan's run.

"Everyone around us has been similar. Nobody has been that consistent.

"We have all had little runs during the season where it has helped us get back in touch and then we have all had disappointing runs.

"That is where we are where we are because we have been inconsistent just like the other teams around us. We are not out of it."

McCarthy added: "We are going to have to play a damn sight better and I am sure they will."



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