Blackpool v Birmingham - match preview

Birmingham City manager Chris Hughton
Birmingham City manager Chris Hughton
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CHRIS Hughton agrees with Ian Holloway – Birmingham’s excellent record against Blackpool counts for nothing in the play-offs.

Hughton’s team have had the upper hand over the Seasiders this season, winning comfortably at St Andrews on New Year’s Eve and taking a point at Bloomfield Road.

On top of that, they did the double over Pool in the Premier League last year – though that was when Alex McLeish was in charge.

That superior record means Birmingham are favourites for the two-legged semi-final.

But Hughton’s intention is to stop the Blues taking anything for granted.

The Brum boss said: “I think previous games count for nothing. It’s going to be about who the best team is on the two occasions.

“Do those results give us an edge? No, not all. What it does do is give us the knowledge about them and it’s very simple: they’re a very good team.

“They had a year in the Premier League, they’ve managed to hold on to a good chunk of players and they have a wonderful mix of experience and youth. They’re an offensive team – there aren’t going to be many games in which they don’t score.

“The threats they pose are obviously there to see.”

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Birmingham have the advantage of playing at home in the second leg, courtesy of a final-day win over Reading which saw them leapfrog Pool for fourth place in the Championship table.

Holloway says he “couldn’t care less” about whether he plays home first or second – and Hughton feels exactly the same.

“In all honesty, I wasn’t bothered if we played at home first or away,” he said. “These games are two cup finals and we have shown we can win away from home.

“Ask any manager and he would choose to play at home second ... but it’s minimal. Teams in this league are capable of winning away from home.

“West Ham have a very good record away, but so do Cardiff, ourselves and Blackpool. It evens things up.”

Birmingham and Blackpool have both won seven times on their travels.

Worryingly for the Seasiders, though, Hughton’s side boast the division’s most formidable home record.

They have only lost once at St Andrew’s, their best tally since going undefeated on home soil in 1971-72 when they won promotion to the top flight.

Birmingham frontman Nikola Zigic has shaken off a dead leg and will start, probably alongside 16-goal top scorer Marlon King.

He and Zigic both netted in the 2-2 draw between the sides at Bloomfield Road this season.

If neither are doing the business tonight, Nathan Redmond, an exciting young striker, will be champing at the bit to get off the bench and on to the pitch.

Right winger Chris Burke – 14 goals, 18 assists – swept the board at the Blues player of the year awards and is the main threat.

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