Another chance for Birmingham to halt Villa's dominance in Second City derbies
It was Kevin Phillips who started the ball rolling for Aston Villa against Birmingham City – and how it kept rolling.
Phillips scored the only goal of the Blues-Villa derby at St Andrew’s on October 16, 2005, for Villa.
It gave Blues’ bitter rivals their first victory in the (league) fixture since 1987.
And it triggered a run of dominance that has seen Villa win six straight derbies.
Phillips, of course, is now at Blues and likely to be on the bench at Villa Park on Sunday.
The games have been close-fought affairs in recent years, but Villa have always tended to come up trumps. The most one-sided affair was in 2008 when Blues slunk away from Villa Park on the end of a 5-1 hiding.
In April, they returned for the first time since that fateful afternoon and put up a very good showing.
James Milner’s controversial penalty settled the match in Villa’s favour and left Blues in a rage.
Roger Johnson lambasted referee Martin Atkinson as a ‘disgrace’ for judging that he had fouled Gabriel Agbonlahor when he slid in to tackle, resulting in Villa’s penalty.
Stephen Carr lost his cool and made gestures to Villa fans in the North Stand and even Alex McLeish felt aggrieved as he marched onto the pitch afterwards to confront Atkinson.
Blues have been playing down the significance of that derby and their beef was primarily towards Atkinson in truth.
But don’t think they won’t be motivated to made amends. Defeat really bit hard.
Some players who were in the 18 have moved on – Joe Hart, Gregory Vignal, Teemu Tainio, Christian Benitez.
Other are injured – James McFadden, Cameron Jerome touch and go. Scott Dann, meanwhile, didn’t figure at all six months ago because of a calf strain.
But the main protagonists will be primed and ready, plus a couple of new additions to the Blues ranks.
And in Nikola Zigic and Aleksandr Hleb, Blues have a pair who could be key to their success or failure.
The occasion won’t faze either, they’re experienced and have played at the highest level, in some of the biggest games.
It’s how they manage to continue in the same vein as recent weeks, particularly in the victory over Blackpool that came as such a relief after six matches without a win.
Zigic had to come on in the Carling Cup defeat of Brentford in midweek as Blues struggled, and he made a difference.
Blues will be determined to be tight and defensively sound as, usually, they are. So the onus at the other end of the field will fall on the big name duo.