Tuesday 21 November 2017

Police on alert for Birmingham derby

Sandy Macaskill

A derby between Birmingham City and Aston Villa is a fraught affair at the best of times, but even more so when it is played in the middle of the week, in the dark, and with a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals at stake.

Concern that it might get out of hand has compelled the police to increase their presence fourfold ahead of what is being billed as the city's biggest match of the season.

Indeed, the West Midlands police -- who expect around 3,800 away supporters at St Andrew's -- are so concerned about the threat of violence they even requested that the possibility of the match being played on a different day should be explored.

Passions are bound to run high on the pitch as well, especially where Gabriel Agbonlahor is concerned. The Villa striker, a Birmingham lad through and through, has had to endure some vile insults from the City fans, but it seems to only spur him on.

The striker scored the winning goal on the last two occasions he has played at St Andrew's, both in the final minutes. Agbonlahor, who has struggled with injury and illness this season, has now had his body weight called into question by his manager Gerard Houllier.

"He's too stocky," Houllier said. "I've told him to lay off the weights."

Houllier's wisdom contradicts the advice given to the 24-year-old by former boss Martin O'Neill, who encouraged him to bulk up. It's not the first time Houllier has raised an eyebrow at O'Neill's methods. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Birmingham City (4-4-2) -- Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Fahey; Jerome, Zigic.

Aston Villa (4-4-2) -- Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Downing, Bannan, Clark, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor.

Ref -- C Foy (Merseyside).

Birmingham City v Aston Villa,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

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