Birmingham v Villa preview
By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Steve Bruce's troops held sway in both meetings between the clubs last season as Blues marked their first campaign in The Premiership by finishing ahead of their old foes.
Blues have continued in the ascendancy this term after a stunning start to the season which has seen the club rise to fourth in the table.
Birmingham head into the clash against Villa unbeaten at St Andrews and their defensive bedrock has made them extremely difficult to beat as they have kept three clean sheets in four home fixtures.
But Bruce will be forced to alter his back-line for the encounter with goalkeeper Maik Taylor suspended. Ian Bennett will come in for the Northern Ireland international.
Tigerish midfielder Robbie Savage expects to return after suffering from an Achilles problem while Mikael Forssell is back in Bruce's plans after sitting out the midweek meeting against his employers Chelsea.
Villa make the short trip to St Andrews still seeking their first points on the road this season after four successive defeats away from their base.
Controversial Turkish defender Alpay's absence is likely to be a blessing in disguise as his presence would surely have only heightened fears of a repeat of last season's shenanigans when the two clubs locked horns.
Alpay has been given time off by Villa after establishing himself as public enemy number one last week against England and the fit-again Ronny Johnsen should take his place.
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen is fit after being forced out of the last Premiership match against Bolton Wanderers with a back injury, meaning Peter Enckelman will not have to return to the scene of his howler from last year.