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Stuart Dalgleish 5th Feb 2011 - 15:37

Hammers are Keane for the three points

West Ham United v Birmingham City - Sunday 13:30 live on Sky Sports 1

Come the end of the season, West Ham (21/20) could be extremely envious of Birmingham (13/5 the draw is 12/5), the Blues beat their Sunday opponents to reach the Carling Cup final and they might be beating them to a place in next year's Premier League.

The Hammers will hope to improve their chances of retaining their top flight status by winning what would be just their fourth home match of the season, and against poor travellers Birmingham, you'd have to fancy them.

City have won just once away from home this season, and were pummelled 5-0 at Old Trafford on their last trip out of Birmingham.

I don't think that the Hammers are bankers in this one by any stretch, but the way they like to come out of the blocks firing could knock the stuffing out of Birmingham. (4/1 for West Ham to score inside the first 15 minutes).

The hosts have scored the opening goal in six of their last seven games, and they normally pounce before the half hour mark, the 7/4 on them scoring before the 30th minute appeals in this one, also in the timecast market you can back West Ham to score first and the first goal up to and including 30th minute at 19/10.

I don't often look at these sort of markets but looking at their recent form it could be worth a few quid.

The man to get that goal could be Robbie Keane, the Irishman is still a quality operator, at a side like Tottenham where they have an abundance of top notch attacking options his chances are limited, so this move was perfect for him as he doesn't have to relocate.

At 9/2 for the opener and 6/5 to score at anytime, he represents great value, he's proved to be a bit of a thorn in Birmingham's side over the years with six goals in 11 Premier League appearances against the Blues and he's already opened his Hammers account with a goal at Blackpool during the week.

Keane has always been a confidence player, once he gets one, he'll normally score in the next few games, and Hammers fans will hope that Victor Obinna (7/1 first, 2/1 anytime) is the same.

I saw the Nigerian forward a few times at Malaga last season when he was on loan from Inter Milan, to be honest I wasn't overly impressed with him, but I felt it was because he was being used through the middle, now that he's operating behind a front two this is where he's at his best.

He's now got five goals in his last two appearances, and eight for the season from 20 starts which is a pretty decent return.

Every time he's scored for West Ham, they've won, it's a 16/5 chance that Obinna scores at anytime on Sunday and West Ham win.

The Blues will be hoping the Obinna that showed his petulant side by getting sent off in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg will show up, his absence in the second leg certainly benefited Alex McLeish's team.

Birmingham of course won that game 3-1 after extra time (28/1 for a repeat scoreline), but before that they were really up against it as the Hammers were all over them in the first half and probably should've killed the tie off.

That's all history now though and it will be McLeish that will lead City out at Wembley and not Avram Grant for a second successive year.

Sadly for the Scot he will not have his loan-star David Bentley (12/1) for that cup final, but he will be available for this relegation clash, and after his performance against Man City during the week, McLeish will be glad of that.

The former England international was sensational on Wednesday night as Birmingham grabbed a late equaliser, and Blues supporters will be looking for more of the same against a player still on the books of Man City, West Ham's left-back Wayne Bridge.

There's loan players making an impression everywhere at the minute, and Obafemi Martins (7/1) will be kicking his heels waiting to join the party, once he gets his visa that is!

The Blues desperately need him as goals are a major problem for them, they've only scored 23 in 23 league games, their run of high-scoring home matches will have helped their confidence but they're certainly not goal-machines.



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