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McLeish reveals Hleb boost

Playmaker fit for Midlands derby

Last Updated: 28/10/10 7:17pm

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Hleb: Fit for derby

Hleb: Fit for derby

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Alex McLeish has declared that Alexander Hleb will be fit for the Midlands derby against Aston Villa.

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The Belarusian playmaker has struggled with injuries since joining Birmingham on loan from Barcelona on transfer deadline day.

He picked up a knee problem during Saturday's 2-0 victory over Blackpool and sat out the Carling Cup clash with Brentford in midweek.

There were concerns that Hleb might not have recovered in time for this weekend's trip to Villa Park, but McLeish insists he will be available for selection.

The Blues manager admits it has taken some time for the former Arsenal player to find his best form but he has been encouraged by recent performances.

Asked whether Hleb would be ready for the game against Villa, McLeish told Sky Sports News: "He will be okay.

"He has not trained and we are finding that he is on the treatment table two or three times a week over the last three or four weeks since he joined us.

"That is a little bit frustrating because we are trying to get him to a level of fitness where he can get to his peak level and show what he really can do.

"He certainly showed glimpses of that last week in a very good game against Blackpool."

No guarantees

Aston Villa did the double over Birmingham last season, winning 1-0 at home thanks to a controversial James Milner penalty and a fantastic goalkeeping display by Brad Friedel.

McLeish regards the rivalry between the two teams as 'an enormous derby' and 'up there with Rangers versus Celtic', but is looking forward to Sunday's encounter.

He is demanding a good game from his players but refused to be drawn on whether this was the perfect opportunity for Birmingham to claim the bragging rights due to an injury crisis at Villa.

"You can't guarantee anything, that is the thing with football. What I'm looking for is performance level," he explained.

"If we play great and lose then that can happen. We might play badly and win. Goals change games and we hope this time around we can take some of the chances we created last time around at Villa Park and didn't take.

"It really is down to the players on the day to have the bottle to go over that white line and show they are capable of winning a game like this."

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