Rovers face a fatigued Blues

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WHEN Birmingham City pitch up at the Keepmoat on Friday, it will be the visitors 53rd match in what has been a gruelling campaign so far.

Since being relegated from the Premier League last May the Blues have competed in the Championship, FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League.

They entered Europe after winning the Carling Cup when they defeated Arsenal at Wembley last February. They were knocked out of the group stages having played eight games in the competition. City have also played five FA Cup ties this season and were only beaten by Chelsea in a fifth-round replay.

Should Chris Hughton’s men, who lie sixth in the Championship standings, also reach the end of season play-offs it would bump their overall total up to 62 matches, with the possibility of 63 should they reach the final.

City’s marathon season has parallels with Sheffield United’s 2002-03 campaign. That year the Blades under the tutelage of Neil Warnock played 61 games, which included a League Cup semi-final double-header against Liverpool and an FA Cup semi against Arsenal.United also reached the play-offs, eventually losing out to Wolves in the final.

The sheer volume of games seems to be affecting Birmingham’s results of late. They have won just once in the last eight games in all competitions, and during the run-in they will be looking to cement their participation in the play-offs.

Despite the Blues lack of form recently, Rovers will have to overturn a terrible recent record against the Midlanders. Birmingham have won the previous seven encounters between the two.