Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has confessed that Fulham’s visit on Saturday is a crunch clash.

It kicks off a period of eight matches in five weeks up to the turn of the year, and many of those are also against sides around Blues in the Premier League table.

“That will test the strength of the team and the squad in respect of will we have the stamina for those games, will we have the back-up for those games?” said McLeish.

“But I try not to look that far ahead so let’s concentrate on Fulham because that is a vital game for us.

“Fulham have performed well, they’re a very organised team. They’ve been able to build on avoiding relegation [two years ago they were battling the drop head-to-head with Blues].”

That’s what Blues hope to do this season: ensure survival and then progress.

“It’s possible,” said McLeish, “and that’s what Stoke have done as well.

“We’re still behind those teams in certain levels of finance and strength of squad, but are we capable of beating them? Yes, we are, and with the performances I’ve seen so far, definitely capable.

”These are the games that we will ultimately be judged on.”

McLeish has a worry over the right-back position as Stephen Carr is now on four bookings, one away from a ban.

Stuart Parnaby has been sidelined with a back problem so suspension or the loss to injury of Carr would cause problems.