Hull City's caretaker manager, Nick Barmby, expects today's opponents Birmingham City to make a concerted push for promotion from the Championship in the new year.
Barmby has known his Blues counterpart, Chris Hughton, since their time together at Tottenham in the early 1990s and believes he is the right man to steer the Midlands club back to the top flight.
Birmingham are 14th in the Championship, six points off the play-offs, but with three games in hand on the top seven because of a backlog caused by their Europa League involvement.
Barmby, who worked with Hughton during the latter's time as reserve team manager under Ossie Ardiles at Tottenham, told Hull City Player: "It's been difficult for them playing in Europe as well. Everything is out of sync for them, teams in this division are used to playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday and they're playing Sunday-Thursday-Sunday.
"But they have coped with it, the results have picked up, they have got a fantastic manager in Chris Hughton and if they win the games in hand then they're up there, aren't they?
"To manage that [is difficult] but they have certainly picked the right man to manage Birmingham, he will definitely do well there.
"I've known Chris for years and he is a lovely fella. His man-management skills are great and his attention to detail is tremendous.
"They will definitely be a force after Christmas when all the games tend to die down."
Hull are eighth, six places above Birmingham but having played two games more and come into the game buoyed by a 2-1 win over Leicester City at the KC Stadium on Saturday.
The Tigers reported no fresh injury problems, with Robbie Brady serving the second part of a three-match ban while Seyi Olofinjana and Richard Garcia played in a behind-closed-doors friendly this week but are not yet ready for a first-team return.
Birmingham come into the game on the back of two defeats - first to Braga in the Europa League last Thursday and most recently to Cardiff in the Championship on Sunday, when Curtis Davies was sent off.
Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill told Blues Player: "This is a tough league and a cruel league sometimes and the sending-off changed the game."
Asked whether the team were treating the games in hand as points in the bag, he added: "We'd rather have played the same games as everybody else all the time. It can be difficult and if we just think 'we'll win them' it can be dangerous. We're taking it a game at a time."Reuse content