Blues Get Underway

Birmingham City’s Europa League away campaign gets underway as  Chris Hughton’s team travel to North East Slovenia for tomorrow’s  Group H tie against NK Maribor.

The ‘Purples’ who are the current Slovenian champions ply their trade at the Ljudski vrt Stadium (People’s Garden) which holds just over  12,000 supporters.

Maribor have begun the season strongly and are presently top of their league. They have a passionate and loyal fanbase that is only beaten numerically by the Slovenian national side.

The official Blues website has some handy information for those planning to travel to the game, tickets are still available at NK Maribor’s stadium before the game at a reasonable price of 20 Euros.

Blues will be without club captain Stephen Carr and central defender Curtis Davies for the trip to Maricor, both picking up knocks in the 1-1 Championship  league draw with Barnsley on Saturday.

Chris Hughton will be taking a 20-man squad to Slovenia and has included youngsters Luke Hubbins and Akwasi Asante.

Speaking to bcfc.com the Birmingham boss said “The only casualties are Curtis and Stephen.

“Curtis is not as anywhere as bad as I initially thought.

“He had an X-ray which showed up OK, no problems. It’s bruising, he took a hefty whack, and it’s just allowing that to settle down.

“I think he’s touch and go for Sunday, but we will see.

“Stephen took a whack on his knee, it’s not a major problem, but that too needs a few days to settle down.”

Jonathon Spector is likely to fill in at right back and Pablo Ibanez is favourite to replace Davies at centre back.

“He (Ibanez) has settled in well,” said Hughton.

“It’s probably difficult for him because he perhaps hasn’t played as many games as he would have liked.

“What he does know is that over a season he will get those games.

“He is very focused and not only that but ready. And he has been training very well.”

Upfront, Hughton has confirmed that Nikola Zigic is close to starting a game after making two appearances from the substitutes bench.

“He’s (Zigic) getting closer and has trained very well,” he said.

“We have to monitor it as each game goes past. He’s been out a long time. Not just this season, but since February and the Carling Cup Final.

“What we want is Nikola fit for the campaign. It’s not important to get him fit just for one game, but he is getting closer.

“He was fine after Saturday and he’s actually on international duty (after Sunday’s match with Nottingham Forest).

“I’m hoping he plays for Serbia. Generally when you send players away you hope that they don’t play. In his case it’s the opposite, it can benefit us with the minutes he gets.”

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