Kick up the Brum for Arsenal's returning stars
English Premier League | Birmingham v Arsenal betting preview - 17:30 Live on ESPN
Arsenal travel to St Andrews to take on Birmingham in the last kick-off of a football packed New Year's Day, as they aim to welcome in 2011 with a very welcome three points.
Arsene Wenger's squad rotation policy backfired dramatically at the DW Stadium against Wigan on Wednesday, where a Sebastien Squillaci own goal gifted the 10 man Latics a share of the festive spoils.
Unfortunately for Alex McLeish and his Birmingham side Wenger is unlikely to make the same mistake again and the Blues may feel the backlash as Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas (First scorer 13/2, Anytime 15/8) is available again after a one-match ban while Robin van Persie (First scorer 7/2, Anytime 10/11), Samir Nasri (First scorer 5/1, Anytime 5/4), Jack Wilshere (First scorer 14/1, Anytime 11/2), Theo Walcott (First scorer 15/2, Anytime 9/4), Alexander Song and Gael Clichy are all in line to return to the starting-line-up.
The Blues defence is solid though and will attempt to suffocate the Arsenal midfield and attack in the same way they did so successfully against Manchester United. The likes of Roger Johnson, Scott Dann, Liam Ridgewell and Lee Bowyer were excellent in stifling United's attacking flair and were only outdone by one moment of Berbatov brilliance.
It is at the other end where the Blues have had the problems. The team has scored just 18 goals in 18 games this season with the strikers only contributing five of these in total. Goals against Arsenal tend to be left until the death. City have scored a 90th minute goal in three of their last four home games against Arsenal, picking up an extra four points as a result.
Unsurprisingly the Birmingham players do not top the first goal scorer market where you'll find Nikola Zigic (First scorer 7/1, Anytime 2/1) and Cameron Jerome (First scorer 7/1, Anytime 2/1) the likely starters up front.
One player that hasn't disappointed in front of goal is Lee Bowyer. The former Leeds and West Ham midfielder has already scored the winner against Chelsea and the equalizer against Man Utd this campaign. At 6/1 he could be a shrewd bet to score anytime.
Arsenal are the favourites for the win at 4/6 while for a home win for City you can get odds of 4/1.
Both teams drew their matches on Wednesday and that could be a likely result here. Alex McLeish's team have drawn 13 of their last 24 league home matches and three of the last four meetings with Arsenal have ended in stalemate. The price for a draw this time round is 11/4.
The return fixture at the Emirates saw Arsenal triumph 2-1 in a tightly contested encounter. Zigic gave the Blues the lead before Nasri and Chamakh goals sealed a home win. For a repeat of that scoreline here you can back Arsenal 2-1 at 15/2 in the correct score market.
Jack Wilshere saw red in that match in October and a dismissal has become a recurring theme in these meetings. There have been four red cards in the last seven Premier League games between the sides and you'll get 10/3 on there being another red card shown in this game.
Arsenal should have just too much for their hosts and despite it being a brand New Year I can see it being a return to the Arsenal of old....1-0 to the Arsenal! This scoreline is priced at 6/1.
Other bets I would recommend are:
Double Result - Draw/Arsenal 16/5
Anytime Goalscorer - Alexander Hleb 6/1