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Crystal Palace ready for Birmingham City trip


PALACE travel to Birmingham City tomorrow in hope of keeping up with league leaders Cardiff City.

Having conceded that late equaliser last weekend to Blackpool, the gap at the top widened slightly after the Bluebirds' 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers last Friday night, but the Eagles will be confident against a Birmingham side that have stuttered so far.

At the start of the season, some may have backed the Blues to be fighting for a top six place under Lee Clark, who was known for an attacking style of football when he was manager of Huddersfield Town.

However, it has been anything but that scenario, and they currently occupy 19th position six points above the relegation zone.

Top goalscorer Marlon King has been in top form so far this season, despite gifting rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers the points with an own goal last weekend, but he's shown he's still got the ability to find the back of the net on a regular basis at 32-years-old.

But where else do they possess a threat on the pitch? Nathan Redmond is certainly one of the brightest young prospects outside the Premier League with his passing and skill attributes on either wing, while Wade Elliott has popped up with a few spectacular goals during his career, most notably at Burnley.

And you can't ignore Nicola Zigic, who stands at six foot and seven inches tall. However, he has made more appearances from the substitutes' bench rather than a starting berth this campaign.

However, one player Palace fans will know all about is Hayden Mullins, although he isn't known for scoring too many goals as a defensive midfielder.

Having come through the Eagles' academy, he is now entering the latter stages of his playing career and is expected to face his former club.

Palace, meanwhile, will make at least one change to their starting line-up at St Andrews with vice-captain Mile Jedinak set to miss out after collecting five bookings this season.

Initially, there seemed to be some confusion with a number of sources stating he had only picked up four yellow cards, but it turns out that a booking he picked up against Nottingham Forest in September was not recorded at the time by the Football League for some reason.

So, will Ian Holloway have to change formation or will he decide to give someone the chance to show what they can do?

One obvious candidate could be Stuart O'Keefe, who has been named in Holloway's matchday squad in recent games, or we may see a rather attacking look away from home with Kagisho Dikgacoi in the holding midfield position with the likes of Owen Garvan and Andre Moritz.

And Garvan told Advertiser Sport it was something the squad have been working on this week ahead of the clash.

"It will be down to the manager but this season I have dropped back into the hole when needed," he said.

"We've looked at that area on the training pitch this week to see what the best way is for the game.

"Whoever gets the armband will do a good job. We just want to concentrate on the game and get close to Cardiff City."

Furthermore, the Irish midfielder agrees that it hasn't been the best season so far for Birmingham, but is wary of their recent form despite last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Molineux.

"I think they've had a bad start and you'd expect them to be up around the play-offs due to the size of the club," he said.

"It hasn't really worked out as much as they would have thought, but having said that, the last few games they've seen signs of improvement – they'll be hoping they can kick on from that."

Holloway will need to also decide on whether to stick with Darcy Blake at right-back or recall Joel Ward, who was ill last weekend.

However, going back to the holding midfield role, it has been suggested that Blake has experience of playing there, so there are options available. Meanwhile, the attacking trio of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Glenn Murray are expected to take their places against a shaky Blues defence that has conceded 33 goals this season.

And Palace co-chairman Steve Parish has praised Bolasie on the back of some eye-catching displays in recent weeks.

"Bolasie is such a smashing, smashing guy with an amazing attitude and you can see that on the pitch," he told Advertiser Sport.

"He never stops, nothing gets him down on the pitch and he just bounces off everything and just keeps going."

Crystal Palace ready for Birmingham City trip

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