Fulham fans will be boarding their coaches on Sunday morning for the final time this season, as the penultimate Premier League match, and final away game, kicks off at four o'clock, St. Andrews, Birmingham.
Alex McLeish, the manager whom we must outwit in order to drag three points from what will be a dogged battleground, is now one of many Scots to ply his authoritarian trade in the Premier League; counting the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Owen Coyle amongst his countrymen. He, like his compatriots, has done a sterling job in England's 'second city' and, despite relegation in his inaugural season, McLeish has brought many favourable fortunes to the Midlands club; not least the latest coup of the Carling Cup, fought from the almost tepid hands of Arsenal.
However, cup victories aside, Birmingham's Premier League fate still hangs in the balance and, even though the Blues have proven themselves a side more suited to the higher echelons than the Championship, McLeish will be trying to fend off the unwanted 'Second-Season-Syndrome'. City have picked up 1 point from a possible 12 and are yet to win in May. Yet, their home form of late hasn't been too concerning, with fine wins over both Bolton and Sunderland in April.
Fulham, of course, come off the back of a highly disappointing home defeat to Liverpool, which will go a long way to dampen a spirit which has steadily escalated over the latter stages of the season. In fact, morale was so high, that Mark Hughes' men managed only their second away victory of the season against Sunderland at the end of April and did so in emphatic fashion, knocking three in without reply. The Cottagers have scored 8 goals in their last 3 games, but defensive stability has been neglected in the meantime, with a normally tight defence shipping five on Monday evening.
In November, McLeish's side made the Eastern trip to London's Craven Cottage and fought to a respectable 1-1 draw, Dempsey replying to an early Larsson goal for Birmingham. Last year, Fulham were defeated at St. Andrews by a goal to nil, but Hodgson's men exacted revenge with a 2-1 victory on home turf.
The hosts have a mass of injury concerns to worry about, with Scott Dann, Obafemi Martins, James McFadden, Maik Taylor and Enric Valles all out. Zigic remains a doubt for McLeish while both Craig Gardner and Liam Ridgewell are suspended.
Mark Hughes informed fulhamfc.com that Bobby Zamora "didn't complete training on Friday" while "Simon Davies got a kick on his calf" in Monday's Liverpool tie. He remained relatively optimistic, though, that the pair could play a part on Sunday afternoon. Zoltan Gera has returned to full fitness so Damien Duff remains the only noticeable absentee.
Score Prediction: Birmingham 1 - 1 Fulham
Predicted Line-Up: Schwarzer; Salcido, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird; Dempsey, Sidwell, Murphy, Davies; Dembele, Gudjohnsen