Hughton hopes for Euro cheer
Chris Hughton set off for Madeira with the aim of returning to Birmingham still in contention to book a place in the Europa League group stage. Blues face Portuguese league side Nacional in Funchal on Thursday in the first leg of their play-off tie, but boss Hughton is very conscious the tie will not be decided until the second clash at St Andrew's next week. He told www.bcfc.com: "We are looking to try and get a positive result in Portugal but in these type of fixtures it's not just about one game. "It's about doing it over a couple of games and we will want to come away from Nacional on Thursday night having got a good enough result that sees us very much in the tie. "You're still looking to get the best performance and result you can. But, of course, what it does mean is that if the result is not as good as we would like, there is an opportunity at home to make amends. "If you were given the choice you'd rather be away from home first and at home in the second leg." Birmingham will compete in a major European competition for the first time since 1962 thanks to their victory over Arsenal in the Carling Cup final last season. The gloss was taken off that achievement significantly, though, by their subsequent relegation from the Barclays Premier League, and stars such as Sebastian Larsson, Ben Foster, Roger Johnson and Craig Gardner have all left. Birmingham began their npower Championship campaign with defeat at Derby but got off the mark with three points against Coventry last weekend, a result that has buoyed Hughton and his squad. He said: "You'd rather go into any game on the back of a win than on the back of a poor performance. "What we have got in our favour is that we're on the back of a win and also a good performance at Derby." Hughton has confirmed he will make some changes to his line-up but his options have been limited by injuries, especially to his strikers. Cameron Jerome (heel), Marlon King (knee) and Nikola Zigic (groin) will all miss the trip while midfielder Jordon Mutch had an X-ray on his ankle today. The 19-year-old turned his ankle in training on Tuesday and the club fear he may have suffered a break. Hughton said: "We are still determining the extent of the problem but Jordon is certainly going to be out for some period of time. "I will certainly be making some changes, but not wholesale ones. Jerome, Zigic and King are still out and will play no part. "We have got four games in two weeks and what we've got to do is try and utilise the players we've got over that period of time. "Unfortunately for me the depth of the squad is not that big but I have to use the squad."
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