Birmingham Vs Stoke City, Sat 12 Feb 2011

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Birmingham newcomer Obafemi Martins is included in the squad for the first time for Saturday's home Barclays Premier League clash with Stoke after the Nigerian obtained a visa this week.

Blues boss Alex McLeish has to decide whether to start Martins or put him on the substitutes' bench, with the former Newcastle forward having not played competitively for two months.

McLeish has a full squad to choose from with the exception of long-term injury victims James McFadden and Scott Dann. Goalkeeper Ben Foster has recovered from the thumb injury which prevented him being involved in England's midweek friendly in Denmark.

McLeish insists the forthcoming Carling Cup final will not distract Birmingham from their battle to secure Barclays Premier League survival.

Blues face three successive home league games which will be vital to their hopes of moving clear of the bottom three.

They then entertain Newcastle on Tuesday before facing West Brom at St Andrew's.

City were given a reminder of the Carling final with Arsenal on February 27 this week with a photo-shoot and advance media requirements.

But McLeish is adamant the focus of his players will remain firmly on the games immediately on the horizon.

He said: "We've had to do some things in advance for the Carling Cup final, the match programme, pictures, things like that.

"It is a wee reminder of how well we've done in getting to the final.

"But it is firmly at the back of the players heads in terms of the big day itself.

"That will take care of itself. We have to get back to the bread and butter of the Barclays Premier League first.

"We've had a good three or four weeks but there is no respite and we've got to keep going and the players have got to keep challenging themselves.

"The mental toughness they have shown over the last couple of weeks has been fantastic and they have got to build on that."


McLeish is challenging his players to achieve back to back league wins for the first time in over a year after last weekend's vital victory at West Ham.

He said: "That is the next challenge for us. We've got home games coming up, again no easy games. We know what it is like.

"We've seen Wolves beat Manchester United and people think, because you're in the bottom half of the table, you should be a walkover. It is just not the case.

"How many points do I want from these three games? I'd like to get them all. We know how difficult that will be.

"It's a huge challenge to us and the other teams will want to have something to say about that.

"If we show the kind of commitment we have shown in recent weeks in those games, whatever the results, you can't fault the players.

"You could drop points. We know that. But I think if we are comfortable and relaxed with that in our heads, we can hopefully play enough good football to steer us to the victories."

Stoke's Mamady Sidibe suffered another injury setback ahead of tomorrow's Barclays Premier League game against Birmingham and looks set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

Sidibe has been missing for five and a half months but scored for the reserves against Burton before injuring his Achilles in training yesterday.

Ricardo Fuller is back after compassionate leave and will be battling for a place in attack alongside Kenwyne Jones, Jon Walters and John Carew.

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

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