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Rupert Wyman 31st Oct 2009 - 18:22

Second City set to witness an away win at St Andrew's

Big spending Manchester City may be without a win in their last three Premier League matches but they look a great bet at 17/20 to beat Birmingham on Sunday.

Mark Hughes' side have disappointingly drawn with Fulham, Wigan and Aston Villa in recent weeks but the trip to St Andrew's should be an easier match. The prize that awaits City is that the three points will see them move up to fourth in the table, ahead of both Tottenham and Liverpool.

City have been plagued by defensive frailties in recent weeks but their superior firepower should ensure they leave the second city with the points in the bag.

For those fancying a shock a home win can be backed at 7/2 with the draw available at 23/10.

Birmingham have hardly been impressive this term, indeed they weren't really as they gained promotion last season from the Championship. Alex McLeish's side always seem scared to commit men forward to assist the lone front man in the Scot's defensive 4-5-1 set up.

This is not a recipe for success as their balance is not right and while teams can succeed in surviving by having a tight defence they more often than not need to also be able to score at the other end and for as long as they don't commit men forward then they will struggle to break the opposition down.

Having said that last time out the Blues scored two goals in the league for the first time this season as they were 2-1 victors over an out-of-sorts Sunderland.

With the lack of goals it is hard to see how they will be able to survive unless McLeish changes his tactics. Against the Citizens though the former Rangers and Scotland boss will be hoping to keep things very tight at the back to start off with as this season the visitors have been notorious for getting off to a flyer.

They have scored six of their 18 goals in the first half hour of games and if they score in the opening 30 minutes against Birmingham then it would be hard to see how the Blues could get back in the game, barring a gift from the City defence.

It will be interesting to see what line-up and formation Mark Hughes picks as he is starting to get most of his players back to fitness, so now is the time when he has to delicately handle all the egos in the squad.

Roque Santa Cruz made his first start in the midweek Carling Cup thrashing of Scunthorpe at Eastlands. The Paraguayan was also on the scoresheet and he can be backed at 7/4 to notch against Birmingham as well.

However, for me it is hard to see Santa Cruz starting as one would have thought that Carlos Tevez (6/4 to score), Craig Bellamy (5/4) and Emmanuel Adebayor (6/5) are all still ahead of him in the pecking order.

For much of the season Hughes has preferred a 4-3-3 set up but much like Birmingham if City are to succeed in the long term I believe they need to slightly alter their balance to a 4-4-2 with Shaun Wright-Phillips and the in-form Martin Petrov on the wings.

Petrov has scored three goals in his last three matches and is 9/4 to make it four in four. One would think that is hard to leave the Bulgarian out but no-one's place in this City side is guaranteed.

Nevertheless whichever team and formation are chosen the XI should still have more than enough to take the points and send out a clear message to Big Four side Liverpool and fellow top four wannabes Tottenham as they leapfrog them in the Premier League table.



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