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Blues to consider the squad carefully

Cheikh Ndoye in the thick of things.

We have just got to look where we are with a few of the boys.

Steve Cotterill

The festive period brings demands on the hearts, lungs, legs and minds.

Blues face Norwich City on Boxing Day at home, then Leeds United visit St. Andrew's on Saturday before Steve Cotterill's side begin 2018 at Reading on the evening of 2 January.

The turnaround from the long trip to Sunderland is short, and Blues had to play with 10 men for a quarter of the match.

"We have just got to look where we are with a few of the boys," said Cotterill, who does not have the suspended Sam Gallagher to call on against the Canaries. Marc Roberts and Che Adams are also definitely out as is long-term victim Isaac Vassell.

Corey O'Keeffe was the 19th man for the journey to the Stadium of Light and Steve Seddon, who has been impressing in the Under-23s this season, travelled to Fulham as part of the squad for a game where Josh Dacres-Cogley started for the first time this campaign and Jason Lowe returned from injury to be among the substitutes.

So there could well be more shuffling of personnel during this busy spell.

"It has not been easy this season and we have had an unbelievable amount of injuries to deal with. However, I don't bleat about that every week and it's been a catalogue of (different) things (resulting in Blues current position).

“We haven’t been far away, from getting points and having performances. And I feel we are still going forward.

“Boxing Day, it's an opportunity to get three points. Norwich had a another day on us – that’s nothing new, there’s quite a few teams who have had an extra day’s prep on us – but it's OK." said Cotterill, who had the squad in for training on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Norwich are under pressure, are all but out of the promotion running now and attentions are turning towards the other end of the table.

They are on a run of form that has seen them lose seven of their last 10 league outings and boss Daniel Farke is promising changes at St. Andrew's and an accent on defensive solidity, the 'basic elements of football', he said.

“These next three games are pretty important as they are games against direct opponents, who will be hungry to close the distance between us,” said Farke. “We have to be there to protect our distance and improve our situation, starting against Birmingham.”

For Blues, Craig Gardner, with his calm, intelligent passing, has been a significant influence in the past two matches since returning to the starting line-up.

Cotterill said: "I have got a load of time for Craig, I really like Craig.

“And he will get better the fitter he gets. For one reason or another, when I first came here he wasn’t really fit to play.

“I managed to see the game before I took over – we got beat 6-1 at Hull – and it was his third game in a week, which I need to be mindful of selecting the team going forward now.

“He ended up playing on a calf injury, so he wasn’t doing himself any justice in training.

“Then he actually pulled it, then he was out for five weeks so it’s probably the first time I have had him what I would call 'fit', yet he still has to go down with cramp at Sunderland! But he was excellent, there, yes.

“We all know what quality he brings to us on the ball. He’s a fantastic lad." 

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