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Stuart Dalgleish 15th Jan 2011 - 14:41

Bentley can drive the Blues up the table

Birmingham City v Aston Villa betting preview - Sunday 12:00 live on Sky Sports 1

With only 20 goals from 20 games it was clear where Birmingham's problems lay, so Alex McLeish has made one, and is attempting another, key signing.

The arrival of David Bentley (10/1 first goal) on loan from Tottenham, and the prospect of Robbie Keane joining him in the Midlands will have put a smile on the faces of all Blues fans ahead of this massive derby match.

For one reason or another, it didn't quite work out for Bentley at Spurs but if he shows the sort of form he had when he was at Blackburn two seasons ago then McLeish could've made one of the signings of the January window, and the midfielder could push himself back into international reckoning, it's a win-win deal for both parties.

The Blues will certainly hope so, as win is a word that they haven't become too familiar with lately, they haven't won back-to-back league games in nearly a year, and they haven't won a league match with Villa in almost six years, however they did knock Gerard Houllier's team out of the Carling Cup, where they need to overturn a 2-1 semi-final deficit to reach Wembley.

But with Villa's struggles at the minute, it must be the first time in quite a while that the St Andrew's regulars will be sensing a derby win (6/4, draw 9/5, Villa 9/4), they just need to hope that their nemesis Gabriel Agbonlahor (13/2 first goal) is showing his current seasonal form, not the regular form he shows in this fixture.

In fairness to the England striker, he's only completed 90 minutes on four occasions in the Premier League because of injury, but he still doesn't look the player that was banging them in last season, the concern for Blues fans though will be that his only goal since the start of the season was against them in the Carling Cup.

The local lad has three goals in five league games against Birmingham, and has scored a few in other Midlands derbies, with Heskey and Young suspended, if they can keep him quiet then they'll have a great chance of a derby day win as Villa's striking options are slim.

Houllier will likely pair Agbonlahor with John Carew (7/1), if the big Norwegian proves his fitness, Nathan Delfouneso (9/1) is another option, although he's mainly been restricted to substitute appearances.

Houllier has tried to rectify his own problems finding the back of the net by signing the creative Jean Makoun, the Cameroonian isn't available for this game, but when he does become eligible for selection he'll add a bit of flair in the middle of the park, looking for killer through-balls to feed the attack with, he's someone I'm looking forward to seeing in the Premier League that's for sure.

With Makoun missing for this one though, that's where I think the game could suffer, it is all too easy to say "derby match? That'll be a draw" but I think it could ring true for this one, as much as I would like to see a high-scoring thriller I just don't think it's going to happen.

I would take a look at the 0-0 on offer at a tempting 8/1, it's not a nice result to cheer on, but Villa are shy of goals at the minute, aside from their three goal haul at Chelsea, and the last three league encounters between these teams have only seen two goals, so under 1.5 at 2/1 is also value, 'no' in both teams to score is 10/11.

I think in the long run, Bentley will prove a massive hit at Birmingham, but he's probably not 100% match fit for this one so would expect more of an impact over the coming weeks rather than in his first match.



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