MATCH PREVIEW – City v Portsmouth

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A big one, this. Incontestably so. Phil Brown has suggested it’s “not a must win game“, and on balance he’s probably right – though draws at home to fellow strugglers cannot be viewed as particularly outstanding results. What seems certain is that defeat will lead to widespread querying of the manager’s position.

At least some of the omens are good. Jimmy Bullard is reportedly fit to make his first start for the Tigers, while captain Nick Barmby and perma-week-away Anthony Gardner could provide timely returns to fitness. Their class and experience were sorely missed during the miserable capitulation at Fulham on Monday night.

Portsmouth, bottom of the league despite reputedly playing better than their results suggest, will be without the banned Michael Brown and the injured trio of Papa Bouba Diop, Herman Hreidarsson and Richard Hughes. Their only points of the season came in a 1-0 win at Wolves – their other eight games have all been lost.

However, if we’re looking for brightness amid the gloom, one is that City’s home form has shown signs of being better than last season’s catastrophic record at the Circle. Should the Tigers beat Portsmouth in Hull for the first time since 1980 it’d read three wins from five, a very useful opening to the season.

All games at all levels are important, of course. Seasons rarely pivot on a single game played before the clocks go back. But tomorrow will offer plenty of clues about how 2009/10 is going to turn out. We await it eagerly…and not without nerves.