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Cup hasn't lost any of its lustre for McLeish

Birmingham city manager Alex McLeish insists an FA Cup run remains "very important" to his Premier League high-flyers as they prepare to face Championship side Nottingham Forest in tonight's third-round replay.

McLeish has guided the Blues to the dizzy heights of eighth place in the Premier League table, and they may soon be looking to achieve plenty more than just preserve their top-flight status.

The FA Cup has struggled to retain its appeal over recent years as the glamour and riches of the Premier League and Champions League have taken precedence.

But that is not the case at St Andrew's, and McLeish, who will select from the same squad that held Manchester United at the weekend, is determined to buck recent trends after he has already seen his charges eliminated at the third-round stage in the two seasons that he has been at the helm.

He completed the £3m signing of Michel from Sporting Gijon yesterday, but the midfielder will not be available tonight. McLeish said: "We'd like to make sure we achieve in terms of the Premier League, and that still remains our mission. But, first and foremost, the FA Cup is very important to us."

Birmingham were on the back foot for large parts of the initial goalless draw at Forest's City Ground.

"We've got a home tie and we're playing against the form team in the Championship," McLeish said. "I tipped Forest as outside candidates for the promotion chase and Billy (Davies) has done it again. He's a great builder of teams. He was always destined to be a coach and he's done a remarkable job in such a short space of time."

Referring to Forest's classy 3-1 win at promotion rivals West Brom on Friday, McLeish added: "I watched the game on television and we had a couple of coaches there, it was a very impressive performance. To go to the Hawthorns and win in the way they did, and in the style they did, was fantastic."

Tonight's clash will pit the current Premier League and Championship managers of the month against each other. But it will also see one long- standing unbeaten record come to an end as Everton await the victors in the fourth round.

Davies' promotion-chasing Forest side are looking to defend an 18-match sequence that stretches back to September, while McLeish has guided his charges to a 13-match run in all competitions. Whatever the outcome, McLeish admits the two managers share something in common in the way they are attempting to deal with increasing expectation as their clubs find themselves in unfamiliar territory when it comes to league matters.

"Their form speaks for itself, Billy's probably surprised at the rate they're going at," McLeish said.

"To have gone so long unbeaten, he's trying to calm the jets as well in terms of expectation levels and I can understand that type of management, it's a similar situation here."

Elsewhere, Paul Connolly and Kris Commons could both return to the Derby County side for their third-round replay against Millwall, who have an injury doubt over defender Tony Craig. Neil Harris and Gary Alexander are still out for the Lions.

Sheffield United have problems ahead of their replay at Queen's Park Rangers, with Matt Kilgallon, Henri Camara, Darius Henderson and Gary Naysmith all ruled out through injury.

Rangers are without on-loan goalkeeper Carl Ikeme but boss Paul Hart is able to call upon his other two loan signings, Adel Taarabt and Jay Simpson, as his side look to book a fourth-round trip to Owen Coyle's Bolton Wanderers.

Bristol City boss Gary Johnson hopes to have Evander Sno available for his side's third-round clash with Cardiff City at Ashton Gate after the Dutchman returned from his grandmother's funeral.

The Bluebirds have mounting injury concerns, with Jay Bothroyd and Ross McCormack both battling to be fit after a virus while Chris Burke is set to miss out after suffering a rib injury.


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