Injuries force McLeish's hand

Birmingham’s crippling injury list means manager Alex McLeish will call upon every fit and able first-team player at his disposal for tonight’s Carling Cup third-round clash against Sunderland.

The majority of top-flight managers, and indeed some from the Coca-Cola Championship, commonly use the League Cup to rotate squads, hand star names a much-needed break and blood fresh talent, while at the same time giving the competition the respect it deserves.

McLeish insists he would love to do well in the tournament this season, while at the same time openly admitting Barclays Premier League survival is his main priority.

But his hopes of a Wembley appearance on February 28 may be hampered by Birmingham’s lengthy injury problems, with a staggering 12 players missing for the trip to the Stadium of Light.

Sebastian Larsson (hamstring), Stephen Carr (thigh), James McFadden (thigh), Cameron Jerome (ankle), Franck Queudrue, Gregory Vignal, Marcus Bent (all hamstring), Martin Taylor (ankle), Lee Carsley (back), Damien Johnson (strain) and David Murphy (knee) are all sidelined.

Loan signing Teemu Tainio will also be ineligible to line up against his parent club.

“I would like to rest maybe (Barry) Ferguson, maybe the (Lee) Bowyers of this world but they’ve got to play,” said McLeish. “It’s all we’ve got left.

“It’s an horrendous injury list, it’s a bit of bad luck but by the end of the week I’m hoping Larsson will be available again, Gregory Vignal is also making good progress, Stephen Carr will be available, David Murphy is getting better as each day passes also.

“So I should have better news come the end of the week.”

He added: “At the end of the day I’m still putting a pretty decent side onto the pitch.But it would be better to have the options, believe me, because a lot of the fellas that have been putting the intensity into games over the last couple of weeks certainly can’t keep that going.

“They need to be rotated at times or else it’ll burn them out and they’ll get injuries.”

The fact Manchester United and Chelsea have lifted the Carling Cup in four out of the past five years, with Tottenham seeing off the Stamford Bridge outfit in 2008, highlights the fact the cup competition has certainly been reborn somewhat in recent years.

Birmingham were unfortunate runners-up back in 2001 when Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool side triumphed 5-4 on penalties at the Millennium Stadium.

Fast forward eight years and Blues have since managed to get past the third round just twice.

McLeish knows it will be a tough task against a Sunderland side managed by former Blues boss Steve Bruce, who will certainly be gunning to get one over on his former employers, but he is certainly going to go all out to be in Saturday’s draw for the fourth round.

“I can’t second guess what Steve is going to do but he’s certainly got a lot of players at his disposal,” said the Blues boss.

“He might feel there’s a chance to freshen up his squad and let others show him they want to be in his first team.

“So I don’t think he has any many problems as I do personnel wise but we’ll go up there and give it a good go and try and get the very best out of the players again, which is my job.”

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