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Birmingham Vs Chelsea: Big Match preview

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Sebastian Larsson believes his Birmingham team-mate Barry Ferguson would "walk into the Scotland side" if new national team boss Craig Levein decides to end his international exile.

Ferguson has been in outstanding form for Blues since his #1million switch from Rangers during the summer, forming an effective partnership with Lee Bowyer.

The 30-year-old has not represented his country since high profile off-the-field incidents during the latter part of last season with the Scottish FA declaring Ferguson would not be selected for further internationals.

But that stance has softened since the departure of George Burley as coach following Scotland's failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

And winger Larsson has faith in Ferguson to be a key performer again for Scotland.

The Swedish international told Press Association Sport: "At the end of the day, it comes down to what Barry wants to do regarding Scotland. It is his decision.

"But what I can say is, he has been in outstanding form for Blues since he came here.

"His experience and know-how have been a big factor in our current success.

"And, if he is able to play for Scotland again, and wants to play, then he would walk into the side given the ability he has got.

"He has done well for them in the past."

Larsson has recaptured the form that persuaded the then City boss Steve Bruce to make permanent his loan move from Arsenal two and a half years ago as he prepares for the home Boxing Day clash with Chelsea.

He has been deadly at set pieces and netted three goals in the last four games including the point-saver with Everton at Goodison Park last weekend.

But Larsson is content to deflect credit onto the back four and in particular the new centre-back partnership of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann.

He said: "The centre-backs have done brilliantly. In fact, the whole back four, and entire team have been superb defensively in most games.

"It gives you that stability when you know you've got that defence behind you and people are working hard for each other, and when your not conceding goals all the time it gives you stability to move forward."

Blues are unbeaten in nine games, collecting 21 points out of a possible 27.

Blues boss Alex McLeish is hopeful Johnson and left-back Liam Ridgewell will be fit to face Chelsea.

Lifelong Chelsea fan Johnson (knee) and Ridgewell (ankle) were unable to train during the early part of the week but McLeish expects to field an unchanged side for the sixth successive match.

Carlo Ancelotti believes he has brought back the personality to Chelsea's team just as Roman Abramovich wanted.

The Blues sit four points clear at the top of the Premier League going into the Christmas programme and, although they have won just once in their last five games, the Italian insists he has restored the good times at Stamford Bridge.

That is just what the club's billionaire owner asked for when he pursued Ancelotti after Chelsea's 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout defeat to Manchester United in Moscow.

In his autobiography published in May this year, Ancelotti revealed Abramovich had complained that Chelsea had no "personality" and that he "did not recognise them". The end result was the brief flirtation with Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari. But he was sacked in February this year when it became clear Chelsea's "personality" had suffered further.

Now Ancelotti believes he has returned some of the swagger that Abramovich was desperate for, even though the Russian has not told him so.

"I think that Chelsea have shown a new play in the last year, and shown personality and identity," said Ancelotti.

"Sometimes we can play well. Sometimes we don't play such a good match. But every game Chelsea play with personality, with a particular system of play and, also, with a good identity.

"With Roman, I haven't spoken about this question. He will have his idea on his team."

Chelsea will go into the game against Fulham without the services of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.

Both are jetting off to link-up with the Ivory Coast training camp ahead of the African Nations Cup next month.

That leaves Ancelotti with youngsters Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge, yet to score for the club, in attack. France striker Nicolas Anelka is not expected to have recovered from his muscle strain in time to play.

But Birmingham lie in wait first and Drogba and Kalou will be available for the final time before leaving for Africa.

"Birmingham arrived from five consecutive victories and a draw," he added. "Above all, it's difficult to play up there. They put a lot of pressure on, and we'll have to pay attention."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Chelsea
Premier League
Birmingham
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