East meets West this weekend in the next round of the FA Cup as Derby from the East Midlands meet Birmingham from the West Midlands at Pride Park.
Derby go into this game on an excellent run of form, victories over Forest and Newcastle at pride park and an excellent performance at Sheffield United have seen a rise in confidence and everyone will be looking forward to testing themselves against Premier League side Birmingham City. The Rams beat fellow Championship side Doncaster Rovers in the last round; a last minute strike from Jay McEveley secured a 1-0 victory for Nigel Clough’s men.
Birmingham are one of the in-form sides in the Premier League. Although they lost their last match against West Ham they had previously only lost once in 12 games at that was against Chelsea. Under Alex McLeish they have undergone a revival this season and currently find themselves in 8th position. The Blues beat Everton in the last round, goals from Christian Benitez and Barry Ferguson saw them run out 2-1 winners at Goodison Park.
The referee will Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire. Mr Atkinson is one of the top referees in English football; he has taken charge of 30 games this season, giving out 124 yellow and 3 red cards in the process. Mr Atkinson has refereed in 6 different competitions this season (the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup, Championship and a World Cup qualifier) and was referee for Derby’s match away at Nottingham Forest in August. He has taken charge of two Birmingham matches this season, which saw the Blues win on both occasions.
This match will be the 105th meeting between the two sides; previously the Rams have won 38 times and the Blues 37. They last met in the 08/09 season when Birmingham won at St Andrews and the Pride Park meeting ended in a draw. They have met in FA Cup on 7 occasions, with Derby winning three of the ties to Birmingham’s two.
If the Rams are successful they will exceed their performance from last season when they lost to Manchester United at this stage of the competition. After such an outstanding performance against Newcastle in the last home game I predict that Derby will continue on their run of good form and progress to the sixth round of this years FA Cup.