Birmingham V Stoke at St Andrews Stadium - Match Preview

Clark targets Blues pick-me-up

Lee Clark hopes to provide Birmingham supporters with some welcome cheer by making the Capital One Cup quarter-finals as Stoke prepare to visit St Andrew's on Tuesday night.

Blues have endured tough times since shocking favourites Arsenal in the final to lift the League Cup trophy at Wembley in February 2011, one of the finest days in the club's 138-year history.

Relegation from the Barclays Premier League followed that same season and City have been unable to make it back to England's top table since, while they currently sit just two points and two places outside the bottom three in the Sky Bet Championship.

Their off-field financial struggles have prompted the sales of prized assets such as Jack Butland, Curtis Davies and Nathan Redmond to raise much-needed funds.

But the visit of Stoke provides manager Clark, who has been in the hotseat for 16 months, with a further chance to put smiles on the faces of Birmingham fans.

"I'm conscious of that every time we play, I want to give the fans a little bit of happiness because I understand what's going on and the predicament they're in," Clark said.

"In terms of people who are at the forefront of my mind are my players, my staff and the supporters - I want to make them feel as happy as I possibly can every time we play.

"A good cup run can do that, I felt that after we beat Swansea in the last round, and we've got a chance against a Premier League team on Tuesday night.

"It's a tough call for us but every time we get out on the pitch I want to give them something back because I sense the support they're giving me and the group is really good."

Having knocked out holders Swansea in the last round, Birmingham find themselves in the fourth round for the first time since their Wembley success.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes has played down the weekend falling-out between captain Ryan Shawcross and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

The centre-back was booked in the dressing room at half-time after a bit of pushing and shoving in the tunnel as the teams walked off at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Reports suggested the bad feeling between the two continued after the final whistle and it has been claimed it was related to Shawcross breaking the leg of Aaron Ramsey - Van Persie's former team-mate at Arsenal - in 2010.

Hughes insisted he knew nothing of the reasons for the incident but did reject the suggestion further intervention was needed to put an end to the apparent long-running animosity against the defender.

"I don't think that was the reason there was an incident but we haven't really discussed that in terms of detail and what was said so I can't enlighten you," said the Potters boss.

"Maybe there were a few petty things going on but they resolve themselves.

"Sometimes it's just better to get on with it. The half had finished and I would have thought the natural break in proceedings would have allowed everyone to calm down, which they did.

"In the second half there was no inclination from anyone on either side to carry on.

"It's just one of those things that flares up very quickly and is extinguished just as quickly."

Hughes takes his side to Sky Bet Championship side Birmingham looking for a Capital One Cup lift which will boost league form which has seen them take two points from the last six matches.

"We are enjoying playing at the moment but we need to get results, we can't keep patting ourselves on the back and say we are playing well we need to start winning," added the Welshman.

"I've always said cup competitions can help your league form so if you get on a good run in the cup it can filter into your league form so it is an important game for us.

"We will be strong because I've always picked strong sides if you a look at the teams I've picked this year and in previous years at different clubs.

"I've always tried to give the competition the respect it deserves and we are edging towards the latter stages so why wouldn't we go strong?

"I'll make changes - some might be forced and others because I want to look at certain things - but we'll go with a team capable of winning the game.

"The competition has been quite good to me (he won it three times with different clubs) and I've always enjoyed cup competitions.

"I'd love to be able to take Stoke to a Wembley final, that was the aim at the start of the season."

Source: PA

Source: PA