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Preview: Nottingham Forest vs. Birmingham City

Sports Mole previews the lunchtime Championship kickoff between Nottingham Forest and Birmingham as both sides look to bounce back from Boxing Day defeats.

Nottingham Forest will look to put their Boxing Day defeat to Middlesbrough behind them and end 2014 on a high when they host Birmingham City in the Championship on Sunday.

Stuart Pearce's side conceded three second-half goals on their way to a comfortable loss at the Riverside Stadium as their winless streak was stretched to five matches.

Indeed, they have now only won two of their last 17 outings in all competitions and sit seven points adrift of the playoff places as a result.

Having made such an impressive start to the campaign, Pearce will be desperate to rediscover his winning formula, and the Forest boss has experimented with different formations in recent weeks.

Britt Assombalonga returned to the starting lineup on Friday having been a shock omission in the draw with Leeds United, but he lasted just 45 minutes and could find his place in danger again should Dexter Blackstock pass a late fitness test.

Henri Lansbury will also be assessed having missed the Boro defeat due to illness, while Kelvin Wilson will definitely be absent having been sent off in the Boxing Day clash.

Jack Hobbs is nearing a return, but January's FA Cup tie with Rochdale is a more realistic date for him, so Jamaal Lascelles is likely to be the man to replace Wilson at the back.

Forest have won only one of their last seven home games, but come up against a side who will also be looking to pick themselves up after their own heavy Boxing Day loss.

Gary Rowett's unbeaten record at St Andrew's as manager of Birmingham came to an abrupt end on Friday, with high-flying Derby County running out convincing 4-0 winners.

The improvement under Rowett is still there for all to see, however, and victory in this early kickoff would send the Blues level on points with 10th-placed Forest going into 2015.

They have been patchy on the road so far, however, scoring just twice but conceding only once in their four away matches since the former Burton Albion boss took charge.

The visitors will still be without Will Packwood, Gavin Gunning and Matt Green for this match, but they have no new injury concerns to worry about.

Rowett could opt to make changes nonetheless, with Nikola Zigic, Wes Thomas and Lee Novak pushing for starts having featured off the bench against Derby.

Forest:

Recent form: WLDDDL

Possible starting lineup: Darlow; Hunt, Lascelles, Mancienne, Lichaj; Tesche, Osborn, Burke, Fryatt, Antonio; Assombalonga

Birmingham:

Recent form: WWLWWL

Possible starting lineup: Randolph; Caddis, Grounds, Morrison, Robinson; Shinnie, Davis, Gleeson, Cotterill; Gray; Donaldson

Sports Mole says: 1-1


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Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka during the Capital One Cup First Round match between Oldham Athletic and Middlesbrough at Boundary Park on August 12, 2014
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Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

MARATHON SWIMMING
· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

BOXING
· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

DIVING
· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

HOCKEY
· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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