when the fixtures come out at the start of the season, i always look to see who are first game is, then i look to see when we play aston villa. it's always like this. i was at school, luckily in ICT, when the 2009/2010 fixtures came out. to see we had manchester united away first was a big one, but the last time we were in the premier league we had chelsea away so i think the fixture man just doesn't like us much! i then looked and saw when we played villa; at home in september, then away in april - that was the one that stuck out the most. it was only three games 'till the end of the season when we would play them.
at the start of the season many people, mainly villa fans, mentioned how villa could relegate us if they beat us in the game in april. and thats why i was worried about playing them then, knowing our fate could be decided on that game. but, less than a year on, we're sitting comfortable in the top half of the table and safe by february, and although we lost the reverse fixture 0-1 in september there is no reason to think why we can't win this game and make amends for the cruel defeat we suffered in the last five minutes of the game at st. andrews.
it's been five years since blues last picked up any points against villa, and blues will be looking to restore a bit of pride to the blue half of the city with a win, or even a draw, when the two teams meet on sunday. blues seem to have gone into 'holiday mode' of late (although the players insist they haven't!) not picking up a win, home or away, for two, nearly three, months of football. but as 'form goes at the window' in derby games, it's sure to be a much tighter fixtures than the last one played out by the two teams at villa park (but we won't mention that score line. ever again.)
villa go into the game with a slim chance of fourth place and champions league football next season, and with spurs playing manchester united on saturday, and manchester city playing arsenal away, villa have a chance to go fifth, and joint fourth, (with just goal difference separating them and spurs) with a win, should the other results go their way of corse.
back in september the game was a very close encounter, with villa getting the only goal of the game in the 85th minute. although villa have the home advantage this time, it is good for blues fans to note the team that stood toe to toe for 85 minutes of the reverse fixture back in september isn't even the team that completed the amazing unbeaten run. players such as queudrue, parnaby, tainio and o'connor have now been replaced by ridgewell, dann, gardner and jerome. it is clear to see that this time around, we have a stronger, more capable team. but only if they apply themselves and do what we know they can do, what we saw in the unbeaten run, will they get a result out of this. not many teams go to villa park and get a win, so a draw would be brilliant for birmingham.
with nothing left in the league to play for, blues, go into the game with one aim: to put one over on their nearest, but not dearest, rivals. villa on the other hand have a lot still to play for, and are looking for a win to keep the dream of fourth alive.
and whats up for grabs for the two teams, other than pride and bragging rights? for villa: a slim chance, but still a chance, of fourth place and champions league football next season. and for blues: a chance to stop them.
kick off: sunday 25th april, 12:00 - live on sky sports 1
(a bit of plugging for you there sky, no need to thank me!)