Football

Birmingham Vs Everton, Sat 13 Mar 2010

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Alex McLeish has admitted for the first time that Birmingham could qualify for the Europa League - if his current strikers can deliver sufficient goal-power during the remainder of the season.

McLeish saw the reunited Cameron Jerome-Christian Benitez partnership impress during the 2-0 mid-week win at Portsmouth which lifted City up to eighth spot in the Barclays Premier League.

He concedes Saturday's visitors, Everton, remain favourites to overhaul them despite City drawing 1-1 at Goodison Park and also knocking them out of the FA Cup.

But McLeish believes "anything is possible" if the likes of Jerome, Benitez, James McFadden and veteran Kevin Phillips are in form during the final two months of the campaign.

McLeish said: "Can you qualify for the Europa League? Well, if Cameron continues to score goals and we keep winning, then it's possible.

"If Christian and the other strikers can keep getting us goals - the four front guys we trust to get into these positions and do well - then it's possible.

"We know it's possible. Anything is possible. Everton would still be favourites to catch us in this particular campaign and Fulham are also there and thereabouts.

"But we have got ourselves in a marvellous position of strength - and it's up to the players and ourselves to keep driving and going for it."

McLeish made several changes for win at Fratton Park and feels he is now starting to have genuine competition for places in his squad.

The likes of Craig Gardner, Michel and the recalled Benitez all created a favourable impression and will now be vying with the rested Stephen Carr, Sebastian Larsson, James McFadden and fit again Lee Bowyer for a place."

Meanwhile, David Moyes has not given up hope of keeping United States skipper Landon Donovan in a squad he maintains is the best he has ever had at the club.

Boss Moyes celebrates eight years at Goodison Park next week frustrated that even in a campaign that has seen Everton beat both Chelsea and Manchester United in quick succession, there will be no major trophies.

It will be Donovan's last game for the club before he is due to return to the US for the start of the Major League Soccer season after a highly successful two-month loan spell on Merseyside.

Moyes sees the possibility of Donovan staying longer if the MLS players go through with their strike, having voted in favour of action on Thursday if they do not get improved labour contracts before their league starts on March 26.

The Scot also hopes that Donovan will realise what he is leaving behind and want another crack at the Premier League.

And if the only prospect left is another loan next January, Moyes will also consider that.

He said: "I don't know yet whether this is Landon's last game, there is still a chance that there could be a players' strike in the US and that could give us the chance of having him a bit longer.

"He has done really well. He settled in very quickly and he has had an impact on the club in the short time he has been here, so we couldn't have asked for more from him.

"We have never talked about a permanent deal. But I think he will return to the States a and say `wow, the Premier League is where I want to be'."

He added: "It is a joy for him playing in the US, he is with a great team in a great place. But I think he will say: `I want to play in the Premier League again'.

" Everyone wants to be somewhere that they are loved and cherished, which he certainly is in the US.

"But there is a different situation when you can be playing in the best league in the world against the best players. And if you want to be recognised at that level, Landon would probably want to have the opportunity to give it a go.

"We have not talked to him about the future, that is not right because he is owned by another club. Landon will be the one who in time says what he would really like.

"But if Landon was available again next January, I would probably try to bring him back here, certainly if he was available in the way that AC Milan keep re-signing David Beckham."

Moyes will be without Leon Osman at Birmingham with a groin problem, while Tim Cahill and Louis Saha are back in training after calf and hamstring injuries respectively, but are unlikely to be considered for the trip.

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

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Premier League
Everton
Birmingham
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