Game preview: Manchester City v Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City shoots past Martin Jiranek of Birmingham City to score during the Barclays Premier League match between Birmingham City and Manchester City at St. Andrews on February 2 2011 in Birmingham England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Carling Cup: once the competition most likely to yield silverware but following last season's successes now very firmly last on the list of priorities.

Roberto Mancini though has been talking positively about the competition, keen to avoid coming unstuck in the manner that the side did at this stage of the competition last season away to West Brom.

That night Mancini made multiple changes from the previous Premier League game and is once again expected to do so; the potential for changing the entire side from the one that drew at Fulham is a very real one but the likelihood is that a couple who featured at Craven Cottage will see some action tonight.

The difference between last season and this was that at The Hawthorns the side was a mixture of the untested (John Guidetti, Javan Vidal, Ben Mee, Abdi Ibrahim and Greg Cunningham) and the disinterested (Roque Santa Cruz). Tonight though will see fringe players, but a side that remains strong on paper.

One of the criticisms of Mancini on Sunday was his failure to rotate following the midweek Champions League tie. In mitigation, I wrote that he may well have felt certain had not had sufficient minutes under their belt to warrant a start. This will be remedied tonight with Constel Pantillimon, Stefan Savic, Kolo Toure (in what will be his first game back in City colours), Owen Hargeaves, Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez starting along with Abdul Razak and Reece Wabara possibly seeing some playing time.

Even with much-changed side City should be too strong for Birmingham - who, lest we forget are the Cup holders - but following relegation and financial difficulties are a very different proposition to the one that hoisted the trophy - but with European participation of their own in addition to Championship commitments will certainly ring the changes for this fixture and City should progress without too much of a scare.

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