Sam Allardyce is banking on his West Ham United players to maintain the best away record in the npower Championship at St Andrews on Boxing Day.
The Hammers head to Birmingham City for the halfway mark of the season looking to make it eight wins from 12 on the road this season, but the manager knows the team cannot afford another slip like the last awayday at Reading.
Injuries and two dismissal contributed to a 3-0 victory that was at odds with the season as a whole. Jack Collison is still suspended and doubts over Julien Faubert, Abdoulaye Faye and John Carew's fitness linger from last weekend's 1-0 home win against Barnsley. Matt Taylor, who has seen a specialist in Germany, Winston Reid and Sam Baldock are all not yet ready to come back into the reckoning.
Joey O'Brien could return after serving a ban while Faubert, Henri Lansbury and Kevin Nolan have to avoid a yellow card at Birmingham and then Derby County on New Year's Eve to avoid picking up their own one-match suspension.
How is the team shaping up for Boxing Day? You are looking for a Middlesbrough performance rather than Reading?
SA: We are hoping that we can first produce that sort of form. The key problem with us has been our injury problems combined with suspensions. Getting the best team we can out on the field is what it is about and hoping it can perform to that sort of level again. We are hoping for that at Birmingham.
What is the latest injury news?
SA: On top of three players one game away from a suspension,Julien Faubert has a tight hamstring and is touch and go and Abdoulaye Faye probably won't make it on top of Jack Collison being suspended. We are short in a number of different areas.
John Carew should be OK after a back spasm. We had to play Dan Potts at the age of 17 last week and he will stay with us. It was a fantastic debut and hopefully he can produce another performance like that. He was part of the strangest back four I have put out but we got a clean sheet. The lads have done very well coping with adversity.
How do you cope with the Christmas schedule?
SA: There is two distractions at this time of year. One is the celebration that happens over Christmas with everyone overindulging in every way shape or form they can, while we have to restrain ourselves from that if we can and steer clear of our family and friends at times.
The other is the transfer window with the speculation around that and who is coming and going and so on. It is a big distraction but we just have to focus on the next 90 minutes and making sure we are prepared to give our very best.
How do you prepare for a 5.30pm kick-off?
SA: We would have preferred it to not be 5.30pm but rather 3pm in the afternoon or maybe even earlier because it is a long time waiting from when you get up on the morning of the game, while it is not enough time for the players to rest up in the afternoon.
It is a bit of an awkward time. We have to deal with it on several occasions throughout the season and hopefully it won't detract from our performance.
You and Chris Hughton had similar tasks this summer with relegated clubs?
SA: Chris will know what we have gone through. It will be good to see him, i am glad he got back into the game at Birmingham because of his bitter disappointment of losing his position at Newcastle which he didn't deserve.
He is back and he is dealing well with difficult times. It was difficult for me to deal with the problems I had at west ham with relegation but their problems are far greater than ours and he is doing a good job.