Birmingham City v Liverpool: Preview

12 September 2010 02:13

Alex McLeish is hoping the fear of losing their place will bring the best out of his Birmingham players after the recent influx of new signings.

Czech defender Martin Jiranek and former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb - if he passes a late fitness test on an ankle injury - will be in contention for the home clash with Liverpool.

Chilean Jean Beausejour also arrived on transfer deadline day although he will not join his team-mates until next week as he waits for visa clearance. With Ben Foster and Nikola Zigic signed earlier in the summer, McLeish has the kind of competition he craves.

McLeish said: "There's a good spirit in the dressing room. I've said that time and time again since I came here.

"It's been evident again this season, although we've got new players and we're trying to integrate them.

"But, as you build a team and you build a club, there's more competition for places and the players have to play to their very best level.

"The thing that motivated me most was the fear of losing my place and I hope that the players here can respond in the same manner."

Veteran striker Kevin Phillips (thigh) and defender Stuart Parnaby (hamstring) remain on the sidelines due to injury.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes Fernando Torres has the resilience to match any of his team-mates but that will not stop him shielding the striker from the rigours of an arduous season.

The Spain international has yet to get through a Liverpool campaign injury-free in his three years at Anfield but Hodgson is determined to give him every chance to achieve it under his leadership.

That may mean the 26-year-old sitting out the odd match as his manager tries to cope with contesting the Europa League as well as challenging domestically.

"I think Torres can probably play three games in seven days - he is as capable as anyone else - but if you can spare your players you want to do that," said the 62-year-old, who experienced injury problems during Fulham's run to the Europa League final last season.

"Torres is nothing special in that respect. The thing about him is that he went to the World Cup with an injury, played without being fully fit and we are anxious to make sure that in this season he will be fully fit.

"I am hoping, with the size and quality of our squad, I won't have to use him three times a week, week after week.

"If that happens then what will happen to Liverpool is what happened to me at Fulham - I'll lose players because you cant ask them to take on that workload at the level we are talking about."

Hodgson was grateful the striker was not overly-exerted while on international duty and thanked Spain coach Vicente del Bosque for his consideration.

"I think it was good for him to go with Spain and score two goals against Liechtenstein but it was nice of Del Bosque to spare him for the Argentina (friendly) game because it will be good for his future not just for Liverpool.

"I realise he was obliged to take Fernando with him because he had to take all his star players with him (to South America) but it was good he did not have to use him in the game."

Torres will lead the line at Birmingham tomorrow as Liverpool look to get their season up and running after starting with a draw to Arsenal and a defeat at Manchester City before beating West Brom just before the international break.

Source: DSG