Fulham Vs Birmingham, Sun 21 Feb 2010

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Fulham defender Nicky Shorey will return for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Birmingham City at Craven Cottage.

Shorey, on loan from Aston Villa, was ineligible for the 2-1 Europa League victory over Shakhtar Donetsk but will replace Stephen Kelly at left-back against the Blues.

Paul Konchesky could figure on the bench after recovering from a foot injury, but long-term casualties Kagisho Dikgacoi (ankle), Andrew Johnson, Clint Dempsey and John Pantsil (all knee) are out.

The Cottagers are nearing the end of a five-week period which has seen them play a match virtually every three days yet defy the workload by continuing to challenge for silverware on two fronts.

They have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup while on Thursday night they humbled 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 match.

But rather than complain about the fixture list, veteran stopper Mark Schwarzer is pleased the matches are arriving thick and fast.

"If you don't enjoy this as a footballer then when are you going to enjoy your football?" the Australian said.

"This is what it's all about, playing games, and playing in Europe and playing in the FA Cup and playing in the Premier League.

"It's the best life to have and I'm enjoying it, at the young and tender age of 37."

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has no fresh injury worries ahead of the clash.

McLeish is to keep faith with the 18 players on duty in last Saturday's FA Cup fifth round win over Derby at Pride Park.

The former Scotland boss has more midfield options after the arrival of Craig Gardner and Michel during the January transfer window.

He left out James McFadden and Sebastian Larsson for the previous league game at West Ham 10 days ago and brought in Gardner and Keith Fahey as the wide players.

Blues are occupying a top 10 spot in the Barclays Premier League and are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

They have struggled to attain their best form in recent games but the fighting spirit which has been their trademark has been to the fore.

City scored a last-gasp equaliser against Tottenham, rescued victory from the jaws of defeat with two late goals against Wolves and also came from behind to defeat Derby in the FA Cup.

Boss Alex McLeish said: "The players have done better than was expected and stood up as the expectation levels have grown and grown.

"They have responded to those expectations, the demands from fans and pundits.

"People say 'the bubble will burst' but they have been sensational, the spirit and the mentality, and I know what they have got in their locker.

"It is now about going on another run and challenging them to be even more consistent than they were in the first section of the season through until May.

"If they can do that, it will be a season to remember and we will try to take something in all the remaining games.

"I have total trust in the players who have been so good for Birmingham so far this season."

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