BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, May 21, 2011 (AFP) - Birmingham manager Alex McLeish has called on his players to evoke the spirit of their League Cup triumph in Sunday's do-or-die battle with Tottenham.
Obafemi Martins' last-gasp goal stunned Arsenal as the Blues claimed a famous 2-1 victory to lift their first trophy in 48 years in February, yet they have struggled for form ever since and are now battling to avoid relegation.
Last weekend's 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham has left them a point behind Wolves and Blackburn, who face each other at Molineux, and level with Blackpool and Wigan.
A crunch trip to White Hart Lane now awaits and McLeish has demanded a rousing display akin to that against Spurs' north London rivals.
"We went to the League Cup final and the odds were stacked against us but we prevailed. Now it's the same this weekend," McLeish said.
"It's a bigger game because of the circumstances and because of what’s at stake, it doesn’t take rocket science to evaluate that. We accept that."
Craig Gardner and Liam Ridgewell return from suspension and Cameron Jerome should be fit to return, however Alex Hleb (knee) has joined Nikola Zigic and Martins (both groin) on the treatment table.
Lee Bowyer (hamstring) and Martin Jiranek (ankle) are both doubtful.
"It's important we get the players who are the mainstays of the team back in," McLeish said. "I do think that when the question's been asked of them they’ve come to the fore when we’ve really needed it.
"We've not had a lot of luck in getting those players back into form and into the team. That takes its toll on a squad of our stature. Whatever happens, we need to make sure we turn in a performance that merits a Birmingham team."
And McLeish insists he has no fears that relegation rivals Blackpool could be at an advantage in their game at Old Trafford with Sir Alex Ferguson likely to rest some of his stars for the Champions League final.
"Manchester United will play a strong team whatever happens as some players didn’t play last week and will need a game before the Champions League final," he added.
"I won't worry about Manchester United at all, we’ve got to worry about ourselves and try and get over the line. We have to get at least a point and see what happens."
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is determined to secure victory, and a fifth-placed finish, as his team are also in the frame for the Europa League through the Fair Play League.
It would mean returning to pre-season earlier than planned and playing qualifiers ahead of the next campaign.
"If we don't win on Sunday we qualify through the Fair Play so that probably means coming back to training next week," he joked.
"We’d play in June and probably another 14 games before the season starts. We have to win as we’ve got European football whatever happens."
Redknapp confirmed former Metz defender Sebastien Bassong will be allowed to leave in the summer.
"Seb has been unlucky," he said. "He did a great job last year but William Gallas has been outstanding, along with Michael Dawson. He may need to move to play regularly but he could play anywhere, he’s a top player."
Bassong has struggled for regular football this season and when Gallas was injured last week his place was taken by Ledley King, who has returned from injury.
King could play against Birmingham but Rafael van der Vaart is struggling and Redknapp will make a late check on goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.